Buildings have a giant carbon footprint: Generating the power needed to run lights, heat, and air conditioning is responsible for more global emissions than the entire transportation sector. New buildings perform better, but most of the buildings that will exist in 2050—when humanity’s carbon footprint needs to shrink to zero—already exist now. That means that each of those buildings will have to be renovated to become more efficient.
In Denmark, a team will soon begin testing a new solution—a prefab, modular facade that can quickly be installed on top of an existing facade to instantly help the building save energy. “The world is burning, and all of us in our respective fields need to do something,” says Martin Vraa Nielsen, who is co-leading the project at the architecture firm Henning Larsen, which is collaborating on the project with eight other organizations. “If you look at the building industry as a whole, it’s very clear that we, in particular, need to make a change . . . If we want to make a difference as an industry, it means starting with what already exists, fixing what we already have. We need to be doubling that amount of transformation work we do.”