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Long-lasting Materials: Key to Green Buildings

By Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 12/09/2020 - 09:54

Q: What major environmental trends are shaping the real estate and infrastructure markets?

A: The COVID-19 outbreak is leading to a reevaluation of the purpose of buildings. A house is no longer just a living space; it now has many other uses. Before, it was common to build mixed spaces that incorporated office buildings, commercial spaces and homes. Now, this trend is changing as people spend more time at home, spurring demand for more adaptable living spaces.

Also, those in the design and construction segments are increasingly using sustainable materials. Countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to halt climate change are aiming to prevent the rise of the world’s temperature by 2°C. To do so, it is necessary for new buildings to have a longer life span and for materials to either last longer or to be recycled or reused. It is also necessary to change our current building practices and build living spaces that can be taken apart and reused. Cities have to be turned into material banks for future constructions to reduce waste.

 

Q: How is Habitat promoting the incorporation of sustainable material and practices into construction?

A: All of Habitat’s construction lines aim to be net-zero by 2050. Our objectives are part of our purpose “Making the World a Better Home” initiative clearly state that our construction materials will not damage the environment or population. We are developing several route maps that will allow our departments in every country to achieve that objective while adhering to the particular conditions of every location, because it is unrealistic to implement universal objectives that do not take into account local practices. Our goal is to increase the percentage of recyclable products in construction and reduce the use of environmentally damaging materials. We are aligning our 170,000 employees across the globe to operate under this principle.

At Habitat, we promote the “multi-comfort” label, which aims to provide a comfortable space considering a house’s acoustics, air quality, thermal protection and the quality of light. Houses are not designed to be workspaces as noise carries across rooms. It is necessary to build new spaces considering the changes in living trends and to retrofit existing homes and commercial spaces to adapt to current needs. Retrofitting older homes will be one of the main market trends over the next 20 years.

 

Q: How would you describe the changes in demand for sustainable materials in Mexico?

A: In Mexico, building companies used to think only in the short term so buildings would start to fall apart in a few years and require significant renovations. We need to change this mindset and build to last a lifetime. To do so, it is necessary to involve sustainability teams in as many projects as possible. For instance, we are collaborating in many infrastructure projects to introduce sustainability practices to its construction. With private projects, we openly and freely provide information to architects, civil engineers and developers so they are able to make informed decisions that lead to the development of sustainable constructions that last well into the future.

The development of public policies alongside nongovernmental organizations and the industry are key to the future of Mexico’s real estate sector. We are working with Mexico’s Green Building Council and Campeche’s government to guarantee the energy efficiency of buildings in the state and reduce their construction price. We are working on similar projects in Hermosillo, Mexico City and Merida. We also see more interest from consumers in sustainable materials and the benefits they bring to their lives. Furthermore, real estate developers are increasingly looking for materials that will bring short, medium and long-term benefits. Sustainable living spaces are much more valuable in the long term.

 

Q: What do you expect to be the drivers of sustainable projects in Mexico?

A: Mexico is ranked eighth or ninth for the most LEED certifications in the world. Even so, many developers believe that sustainability concerns only the use of proper materials for thermal coverings. Clients are increasingly interested and informed in better interior air quality through air conditioning systems, walls that absorb organic particles or fiber-glass coverings that improve acoustics. Clients often want what they see in other houses so builders will increasingly incorporate these materials while looking out for their bottom line.

 

Q: How is Saint-Gobain strengthening its local manufacturing capabilities for sustainable materials?

A: We have strong manufacturing capabilities in Mexico and we aim to continue growing to introduce much more useful products to the market. We work with highly technological sectors, such as the aerospace, transportation, drainage and construction industries. We will continue believing and investing in Mexico. We also plan to continue diversifying our infrastructure capabilities but this is highly dependent on the market’s maturity.

In 2019, we inaugurated our second glass-manufacturing plant in Saltillo, Coahuila, which produces glass for the automotive industry, and we are finishing a third flat glass plant in that state. We also have a major glass-manufacturing plant for the automotive industry in Cuautla, Morelos, and strong textile manufacturing capabilities in Tlaxcala. In Saltillo, Coahuila, we have plastics manufacturing plants. We have plants that manufacture abrasives in Reynosa, Tamaulipas and Tijuana in Baja. We also have manufacturing sites for plaster for light construction solutions in Queretaro and San Luis Potosi.  

 

Q: How do you ensure you will be able to meet the demand for sustainable materials?

A: Our advantage is local manufacturing. Our teams help clients find the ideal product according to their needs and budget while providing energy savings, improving lighting and acoustics.

Our local plants are constantly innovating. For instance, the plaster plant will soon introduce a new line of products that will revolutionize the market for light construction. We are also developing new glass products and we are the only company in Mexico capable of manufacturing coated glass into jumbo sizes and on-demand. We are prioritizing the development of locally made solutions for the Mexican market to ensure developers are able to use locally sourced materials that adhere to green certifications.

 

 

Saint-Gobain designs, produces and distributes materials and solutions that are key ingredients in the well-being of each one of us and the future of all. They can be found anywhere where we live and in our daily lives: buildings, transport, infrastructure and in many industrial applications. They provide comfort, performance and safety, while at the same time addressing the challenges in sustainable construction, energy efficiency and climate change

Photo by:   Saint-Gobain
Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst