Cities are responsible for 70-80% of the EU’s total energy consumption and about the same share of CO2 emissions. Half of these are caused by buildings alone.
As a durable and sustainable metal with a long life and full recyclability, copper plays a crucial role in the wiring, installation, heating and cooling, lighting and roofing of buildings. When it comes to making them “greener” – that is, using design, construction and operation to minimise negative environmental impact or even turn it into positive contributions – copper can help: Key components such as energy efficiency and smarter use of resources rely on copper. The greener the building, the more copper is needed.
Copper is also a key component in many low-carbon technologies, including electric vehicles, solar thermal, photovoltaics, smart grids and natural refrigerant-based cooling systems. Add to this the fact that many building products containing copper have a high recycled content – often over 80% – and copper is an important sustainable material for building greener and smarter cities in Europe.
Important changes to European environmental certification now recognise the contribution that an infinitely recyclable material like copper can make to the circular economy: It is now mandatory to consider the end of product life and to report the additional benefits and burdens resulting from the reuse or recycling of end-of-life products. Many certification systems in the building sector, such as the DGNB (Deutsche Gesellschaft für nachhaltiges Bauen e.v. – German Sustainable Building Council) in Germany, place great emphasis on sustainable systems thinking and the best recyclability of materials when awarding their seal of approval, and reward the use of renewable energies and heat pumps – all technologies in which copper has an important function.
- Copper is the key to improving energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water quality and life cycle costs.
- Copper is the metal of the energy transition, powering renewable energy systems and green technologies. Renewable energy systems, for example, need up to twelve times more copper than conventional energy systems.
- The lifetime of copper is infinite and has no end phase. This renewable raw material can be recycled again and again without loss of properties. Copper recycling not only saves significant abiotic resources, but also huge amounts of energy, as it requires 85% less energy than primary production.
Learn more in our video.Brochure: Building Better: A Guide to Copper in Green and Healthy Buildings
There are more than 100 copper applications that contribute to green and healthy building construction and improve environmental performance.
Globally, the climate is changing towards increasingly extreme weather conditions, which in perspective means that not only new buildings will need to be equipped accordingly, but also the existing stock of properties – especially in the commercial sector – will need to be upgraded to maintain the comfort of the occupants. In particular, the demand for climate-related retrofits such as air conditioning, heating and heat pumps, and renewable energy systems in Europe will increase by almost 40 percent by 2035. The big challenge here, however, is to combine building upgrades with decarbonisation needs.
Especially in climate-related technologies, copper plays a crucial role due to its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity. Because copper can facilitate the efficient delivery of power and cooling, it remains the material of choice for heat exchangers, cables and motors, and an essential component for climate upgrades in particular.
By 2035, copper demand for climate retrofitting alone is expected to increase from 40,000 tonnes today to around 160,000 tonnes, an average annual growth rate of almost ten percent. Of this, about 75,000 t will come from the electricity sector alone; while heating and heat pumps will account for 35,000 t. The highest annual growth rate, however, is expected for renewable energies, at almost 20 per cent.
Are you looking for a different content?