The concept of upcycling refers to taking an item that would be considered waste and improving it in order to make it useful again, adding value and new functionality to it. This is a common word in several industries, such as fashion and furniture. In civil construction, this concept can also be incorporated, making the waste generated by the industry itself recirculate or even bringing what would be discarded from other industries to be processed and incorporated into constructions. This is the case of transforming agricultural waste into building materials, bringing a new use to discards, reducing the use of raw materials and creating products with excellent characteristics.
According to the UN, more than 7000 extreme weather events have been recorded since 2000. Just this year, wildfires raged across Australia and the west coast of the U.S.; Siberia charted record high temperatures, reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit before Dallas or Houston; and globally, this September was the world’s hottest September on record. As the effects of the climate crisis manifest in these increasingly dire ways, it is the prerogative of the building industry – currently responsible for 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions – to do its part by committing to genuine and sweeping change in its approach to sustainability.
One of the most challenging aspects of this change will be to meet mounting cooling demands in an eco-friendly way. Cooling is innately more difficult than heating: any form of energy can become heat, and our bodies and machines naturally generate heat even in the absence of active heating systems. Cooling does not benefit equally from spontaneous generation, making it often more difficult, more costly, or less efficient to implement. Global warming and its very tangible heating effects only exacerbate this reality, intensifying an already accelerating demand for artificial cooling systems. As it stands, many of these systems require large amounts of electricity and rely heavily on fossil fuels to function. The buildings sector must find ways to meet mounting demand for cooling that simultaneously elides these unsustainable effects.