September 27th 2023

Aligning building strategies to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Aligning building strategies to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Since they were established in 2015, more than 10,000 companies, most national governments and thousands of investors have pledged to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 interlinked objectives, intended as a blueprint to achieving a better, just and more sustainable future for all, recognise that global development needs must balance all aspects of social, economic and environmental sustainability. However, with just seven years left to deliver and 169 sub-targets to meet, it’s clear there is still considerable work to do for these pledges to be realised.  

The UN’s latest annual progress report found that the world is “woefully” unprepared to deliver the SDGs by 2030, with progress having halted or even reversed on some Goals during the pandemic. However, support for the SDGs remains strong, with more than half of businesses that responded to edie’s recent survey believing that the SDGs still act as an important framework to help elevate sustainability strategies.

Last week, IES were proud to be involved in edie’s Sustainable Action Sessions – an afternoon of live, interactive webinar presentations and discussions, all dedicated to giving businesses the tools, insights and knowledge to maximise their contribution to the Global Goals. The event brought together a selection of business leaders and sustainable development experts to share their learnings and discuss some of the biggest drivers, challenges and opportunities when it comes to accelerating momentum to achieve the 17 SDGs by 2030, both in the UK and globally. If you weren’t able to join the live sessions, you can watch on demand here.

Of course, our particular area of focus – the built environment - is integral to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Decisions that relate to how we design, build, retrofit, operate and maintain our buildings across their lifecycle must form a key part of the collective efforts required to build a sustainable and inclusive world for current and future generations. And while SDG 11, which focuses on the development of sustainable cities and communities, may seem like the obvious crossover, there are in fact a number of SDGs in which the built environment must play a key role. In fact, the WorldGBC actually outlines at least 11 of the 17 Global Goals in which the built environment sector can actively support the targets for 2030, encompassing everything from improved health and wellbeing (SDG 3), to affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), and of course climate action (SDG 13), amongst several others.

During session three of last week’s event, 7 years left: 7 case studies to accelerate business action on the Global Goals (Part 2), IES’ Ian Pyburn shared how IES is helping clients respond to a number of the SDGs within the context of the built environment, with particular focus on SDG 7 – Affordable & Clean Energy, SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities, and SDG 13 – Climate Action. To do so, he used the example of one of our recent projects, a collaboration with Dublin City Council, in which we worked in partnership with the council to determine the optimum retrofit strategies for regenerating three of the city’s ageing residential blocks for social housing. The project took a whole-life carbon approach, utilising our digital twin tools to analyse and determine both the embodied and operational carbon impact of four retrofit strategies, ranging from shallow retrofit to reducing to core and shell and rebuilding.

The results of the project, which projected an 85% reduction in cumulative emissions through a deep retrofit strategy, will not only support the council in meeting its emissions reduction and retrofitting targets (which is key to delivering on SDG 13), but will also bring social benefits, by helping to upgrade the city’s social housing and meet housing delivery targets. And it’s an approach which can be scaled to any group or typology of buildings, to help deliver on many of the sub-targets the SDGs set out to achieve.

Working collaboratively with our partners and clients, we have supported countless other projects, encompassing both new and existing buildings and communities, to identify significant energy, cost  and carbon savings, to support an affordable net-zero transition, capable of meeting society’s current and future energy needs. To find out more about the impact these projects are having, you can check out some of our case studies here.

Not only are we focused on making buildings more energy, carbon, and cost efficient to run, but also focused on ensuring the comfort, health and wellbeing of the people who use them. Our software supports the established WELL building standard as well as safe CO2 monitoring and ventilation strategies, which place human wellbeing at the forefront.

Last year, we were proud to feature in the VISION 2045 campaign, a series of short documentaries that aimed to inspire businesses and people to take collective action towards the UN SDGs to ensure a better future for all. If you haven’t already seen it, you can watch the video here for further insights from IES and our partners around how the built environment is stepping up to deliver on many aspects of sustainability.

While buildings are a significant contributor to global emissions, all too often they are overlooked in broader conversations concerning sustainability and climate change. Ultimately, buildings and cities are an essential part of human existence and present an area where everyone can make an impact. In the spirit of SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals – we know that collaboration is key to ensuring the SDGs can be delivered. And we stand ready with the knowledge, and the tools, to help buildings and cities become an integral part of sustainable development strategies.

To find out more about how your organisation can make progress towards the SDGs, you can watch edie’s Sustainable Development Action Sessions on demand. Or, for further details on how to integrate your buildings within your sustainable development strategies, please get in touch with our team here.