Large City fires in 2100 ( ‘D-Day’….)

The year 2100: Finally! It’s the year 2100, and for the first time, CO2 emissions from buildings will start going down. It should have been already zero by 2050, but due to spreading emissions over the lifespan of buildings, it’s only mathematically the case from 2100 onwards. Yearly that will be the case for a portion of the total building stock. Finally.

However, there is a downside; unfortunately, since this year, 2100, a portion of the houses in the Netherlands has been on fire. All buildings and houses constructed and containing organic materials 75 years prior will burn down in that year, spread across the Netherlands. And the same in 2101, 2102, and every year thereafter, all houses built 75 years before. The fires will grow larger every year because back then, more and more construction was done with organic materials. Not that is should burn, its completely safe, but because it was allowed under the condition that everything would be burned after 75 years, as agreed back then. That process has now begun. Despite decline due to lifespan, direct CO2 emissions will rise again because the growth of new forests cannot keep up.

The construction challenge will be enormous from now on, 2100, since in 2025, 100,000 houses were built per year (.), and now they all need to be rebuilt. If we broaden the scope, almost the entire housing stock of the past 75 years has been renewed, either through new construction or demolition and new construction instead of renovation, and increasingly with biobased materials. Thus, from 2100 onwards, the Netherlands will have to rebuild its entire built environment.

These construction activities will mainly be in the East and South of the country because recently not only houses are burning but also flooded and going underwater. It does offer the opportunity to redesign the Netherlands. Back in 2025, people had no idea what would happen in the future, and most buildings and houses were built in the wrong places. They are in areas that are already or will later be flooded, and thus, they will have to be abandoned willingly or unwillingly.

The above could very well happen; at least today in 2024, calculations are being made with 1) spreading today’s emissions over 75 years, 2) with an end-of-life building scenario, and 3) burning at the end of the building’s lifespan after 75 years. (module ‘D-day’…)

Another scenario is how it might actually unfold:

Netherlands is increasingly threatened by water. Parts of the country have already been abandoned, and a flow of refugees has started up, partly towards the east of the country and partly abroad through a government-sponsored emigration program. Especially emigration by farmers, as the remaining land here is needed for those housing relocations, water storage, and other purposes.

The value of homes in still-dry parts of the West has plummeted; they can no longer be insured or obtain mortgages, causing many families to face severe problems. There are also many abandoned homes there from people who have fled or emigrated. Instead of the in 2025 expected burning of houses in 2100, there are widespread plunderings of those vacant houses to obtain materials and resources for additional houses in the East of the country, as resources have become extremely scarce and unaffordable.

Well, that’s something we’re not really concerned about in 2025. We are discussing rules and calculations that are becoming increasingly complex and optimistic. And 2100 is still a long way off…



PS. This is a follow up text for a Linkedin Post of the past week, about ‘Away with LCA and the likes‘, see below, that had a lot of reactions:

Away with LCA and the likes

There’s quite some discussion about the environmental requirements for buildings and products, such as LCA”s, EPD’s, CE marking etc, and the upcoming adjustments to them. Not surprisingly, there’s an enormous complex evaluating system woven, catering to everyone’s tastes. There are numerous categories and types of impacts, fundamentally incomparable and non-additive, subjectively weighted, sometimes translated into artificial costs. And all spread out over fictional lifespans of buildings, thereby shifting the impact imaginarily into the future. Assuming that our children will demolish all houses in 2100 and, if they are wooden houses, that they will eventually burn them. (so that the CO2 still ends up in the atmosphere). Who comes up with such a thing? Building evaluations have become entangled in their own complexity.
It can be much simpler. If you want to reduce CO2 emissions caused by materials and production, then focus on CO2. That CO2 is already emitted upfront, before construction completion. And it doesn’t gradually release over 50, 75, or 100 years, shifting our problem onto the children (which is actually ‘forbidden’, following ‘Paris’ that we need to reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050).
But if you also want to address material use and depletion itself, since we aim for a 50% reduction in new material use and everything to be circular, that can also be included with just one combined indicator, instead of another set of separate rules. Instead of focusing on CO2 (merely a consequence), we focus on the energy input (’the cause’), aiming at manufacturing and production energy, or Embodied energy. With a maximum on embodied energy, you hit three birds with one stone: limited energy input (thus also CO2 emissions), reduced manufacturing energy of a building (less fossil energy but also less renewable energy generation), and thirdly: to achieve lower manufacturing energy, you quickly resort to bio-based materials, with a generally much lower energy content. As a bonus, other adverse effects, such as pollution or waste, are also reduced. For practice, its just 2 indicators: a general maximum on energy input (embodied energy), and a minimum share of renewable energy in production. Also, an incentive for industry to switch to renewable energy faster. ( For NL: Call it Beng 4 and Beng 5, if you will).
This way, we take responsibility for the main effects today, instead of years of debating subjective weighting factors, a cent more or less, a year more or less of depreciation. And thus burdening our children until 2100 with accounting CO2 emissions. While that has already taken place now, and the houses of our children will have been submerged (in NL) or succumbed to heat much earlier than the depreciation of that building lasts. Let alone the fact that they will still burn down their homes later on. They won’t even be able to do that if they’re already underwater. How absurd can you get.

LCA/MPG: let it burn.

Author: ronald rovers