The warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and its consequences require two types of measures: On the one hand, it is important that the construction industry also avoids the emission of greenhouse gases wherever possible in order to counteract the cause of the rise in temperature. On the other hand, the construction methods must be adapted to the unavoidable consequences of climate change. Constructing buildings in such a way that they only consume minimal energy and other resources was one of the founding ideas of the Green Building Cluster of Lower Austria. The objective has now been expanded to include construction methods that enable the best possible adaptation to climate changes. The vision of the Cluster is to consider both aspects as an opportunity for innovation.
Numerous measures are available to make a building “climate-resilient”: Through unsealing and targeted greening of buildings, water can be stored and gradually evaporated in order to reduce the effects of heavy rain events and improve the microclimate around the building. Sustainable cooling concepts are of particular importance. First of all, structural measures such as suitable floor plans, shading and light control can be used to reduce the cooling requirement as much as possible. The remaining cooling load is covered by innovative concepts such as component activation, building greening and/or ventilative cooling.
Numerous building blocks are already in place in Lower Austria to make this vision a reality:
- In qualification projects such as “ClimB!” and “sus^build”, planning companies can learn strategies that can be used to react to the effects of climate change in the context of construction. Sponsor: FFG (Austrian Research Promtion Agency) program R&D Competences for Industry
- As part of the “Draingarden” project, Lower Austrian companies jointly developed a rainwater retention system based on a special substrate made of mineral and organic components.
- In the “Vertical Gardens Austria” cooperation project, vertical planting systems made of wood and metal were developed that also enable plants to be grown in the urban environment in the smallest of spaces, such as on balconies and terraces. Sponsor: Province of Lower Austria, Dept. WST3
- In a pilot project, a training program was developed based on the role of waste officer. This program was used to train “resource officers” at Cluster’s partner companies. These employees are then responsible for the use and handling of resources in the company. Sponsor: FFG program Innovationcamps
- In the “Cool*Buildings” research project, research and company partners are working together to develop solutions for reducing and sustainably covering the cooling requirements for buildings. Sponsor: Province of Lower Austria, Dept. WST3
The network of the Green Building Cluster of Lower Austria in this area includes numerous planning and construction companies that have been involved with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly construction for a long time and have often done pioneering work in this area. In addition, strong cooperation axes with scientific institutions and specialized consulting firms have emerged over the 20 years of development work performed by the Cluster.
The implementation of the vision is currently facing major challenges: Thinking in ecological cycles must be established in order to reduce the environmental footprint not only with regard to CO2 emissions, but also with regard to other criteria of resource consumption. The design of buildings and the way the construction industry works must be geared towards making them an integral part of a climate-neutral circular economy.