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Green Building and Renewable Energy

Globally, the building and construction sectors combined are major contributors to energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, buildings account for nearly 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions when including building construction. Of this, operational emissions – from energy used to heat, cool, and light buildings – account for 28%, while the remaining 12% comes from embodied carbon associated with materials and construction processes throughout the building lifecycle. In response, the building industry worldwide is increasingly adopting renewable energy sources to mitigate environmental impact and improve energy efficiency. In 2022, energy consumption from renewable energies in the building sector was 7.8 EJ and aims to be 18.2 EJ by 2030 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Innovative solutions in solar, wind, and geothermal energy are at the forefront of sustainable building designs, offering a promising pathway to reduce the sector's carbon footprint and operational costs.

Solar Energy

In 2021, the global capacity for solar photovoltaic (PV) energy production reached approximately 714 GW, compared to just 40 GW in 2010, as per the International Energy Agency (IEA). This significant increase indicates a global trend towards cleaner and renewable energy sources. 

Principles and technologies :

Solar energy is captured in two main ways: photovoltaics (PV), which convert sunlight into electricity, and solar thermal, which uses the sun's heat. PV technology leads due to its flexibility and wide application, from residential roofs to large solar parks. Although less widespread, solar thermal plays a crucial role in heating water and spaces, as well as in some industrial processes.

Advantages and Applications : 

The primary advantage of solar energy is its abundance and almost limitless availability. Unlike fossil fuels, it does not emit CO2 during electricity production, making it essential for reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, solar energy can be produced locally, reducing dependency on energy imports and promoting energy security. In 2020, residential PV systems accounted for about 40% of all solar capacity installed in the European Union, according to Eurostat.

Challenges and Solutions : 

Despite its many benefits, solar energy faces challenges, notably in terms of variability and the need for significant surface areas. Solar energy production is directly dependent on weather conditions and sunlight, leading to fluctuations in electricity production. To overcome this challenge, the development of more efficient and affordable energy storage systems is crucial. Furthermore, ongoing innovation in photovoltaic materials promises to increase the efficiency of solar panels and reduce their environmental impact, notably through recycling. Today's PV panels have an efficiency range between 13% and 24%. Integrating solar energy into buildings, through roof-integrated panels or solar facades, offers a promising solution to increase energy production density while minimizing land use. For example, solar roof tiles are a type of building-integrated photovoltaïc system. These tiles function as both roofing material and solar panel with an efficiency range between 10 and 20% according to GreenMatch.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is a vital component of the global energy mix. In 2020, the global installed wind energy capacity exceeded 743 GW, marking a significant increase from the previous decade, which was estimated at about 200 GW in 2010 (Global Wind Energy Council, 2021). Although the building sector benefits less from this source, which is primarily used on a large scale, it remains an important area of innovation. 

Principles and technologies :

Wind energy is produced by converting the kinetic energy of wind into electricity through turbines. There are two types of production: onshore and offshore.Offshore represents turbines used on the sea and are not used in the building sector. However, turbines can be installed on rooftops or integrated into the structure of buildings themselves. These systems, often smaller compared to their counterparts in wind farms, are designed to exploit u