“HOUSING IS A MAJOR CHALLENGE BECAUSE IT IS THE POINT OF ENTRY FOR ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL INCLUSION. SO IT MUST BE INTRINSICALLY SUSTAINABLE.”
“Housing is a major challenge, because it is the point of entry for economic, social and cultural inclusion. It must be intrinsically sustainable, which means it must be constructed in such a way as to provide stability and dependable living conditions for the long term. This is a crucial issue, especially for migrants, because access to proper housing is a precondition for their effective integration. So at UN-Habitat, we see the challenge as not only building housing units, but also building the cities of tomorrow for resilient communities in order to provide a better life for everyone. This conviction led us to launch our Housing for All campaign, which is designed to remind everyone that housing is more than just having a roof over our heads; it is the cornerstone of health, dignity, safety, inclusion and wellbeing for everyone on this Earth.
UN-Habitat sees the concept of sustainability as absolutely fundamental. Since the 2006 climate change conference, we have refocused our work on the development of sustainable and eco-friendly construction. In this particular area, and on the wider issues around the right to decent housing, we are convinced that the necessary changes will happen if every construction ecosystem stakeholder commits to developing a common vision of tomorrow’s cities. So we provide our support to national and local governments as part of helping them to implement sustainable housing policies and programs. And so in the same way as the World Urban Forum we host every two years, we work to encourage and facilitate open dialog between governments, the world of research and the private sector, which is now running highly innovative R&D programs that inspire us in our quest for solutions and new technologies with the potential to make housing more resilient, especially in areas at risk of flooding, for example.
As with our other programs, our intervention takes two forms. The first is to act as a central point for research around the legislative frameworks that will eventually govern construction standards, projects and housing assistance. The second looks at the economic aspects: how do we create new jobs? How can we have a long-term impact on local and national economies? To answer questions like these, we work closely with our partners in the field to adopt and promote operational solutions that help cities and entire countries to improve funding and access to housing for all. More specifically, we promote the use of alternative building materials that deliver multiple benefits by being more resilient to climate change and reducing construction costs. One of our primary tasks is to incorporate an essentially cultural element into housing, because if housing is to be sustainable, it’s important that we promote and encourage construction techniques and types of housing that align fully with situations, cultures and lifestyles, and architectural solutions that local people, some of whom have been recently displaced or subject to conflict, will be able to reproduce by themselves in the longer term.”
Construction companies are leading the way in the development of more sustainable housing. They are also working to accelerate this transformation by integrating environmental concerns at every stage of their value chain, and building partnerships with international institutions like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
“AT SAINT-GOBAIN, WE BELIEVE THAT SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION MUST DELIVER EFFECTIVE RESPONSES TO THREE CHALLENGES: HEALTH AND WELLBEING, ENERGY AND CLIMATE, AND RESOURCES AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY.”
How does Saint-Gobain's concern for the environment guide its strategy?
In 2010, we set ourselves the goal of setting the benchmark for sustainable housing. That goal was developed out of the realization that it was no longer possible to continue designing, building and renovating buildings as we had been doing up to that point, and for two reasons. The first is that we believe that it’s important to provide healthier, more comfortable buildings to an increasingly urban global population that spends 80% of its time indoors. The second is that the construction sector is the largest consumer of natural resources at around 40% of global consumption, and also the largest contributor to climate change, generating 38% of global greenhouse gas emissions. So to be sustainable, construction has to respond effectively to these challenges. The objective is to construct buildings that have both a positive effect on the well-being of their occupants and a reduced impact on the environment throughout their life cycle.