HOW DO WE SELECT MATERIALS FOR OUR BUILDINGS?

8 days ago

Contemporary logistics construction poses many challenges for developers, including the necessity of choosing environmentally friendly and energy-efficient materials. Marcin Nalepa, an expert from LemonTree, discusses the practices used in building facilities, the benefits of certified materials, and innovations that help reduce carbon footprint and increase the energy efficiency of our buildings. 

Marcin, thank you for your time. To start, could you tell us what exactly you do at LemonTree?

Marcin Nalepa: At LemonTree, I hold the position of Project Manager. I am responsible for coordinating the investment process from the moment a property is selected for development until the completion of construction and obtaining the occupancy permit. My duties include overseeing and coordinating project work at all administrative stages, organizing the tender process for selecting a general contractor, coordinating the actual construction process, and the handover of the building to potential tenants.

Our conversation will focus on the selection of materials for your service-logistics projects. What is LemonTree’s approach? Could you tell us about it?

Marcin Nalepa: At LemonTree, material selection is a crucial element of every project. We prioritize certified materials that not only meet the highest quality standards but also contribute to sustainable development. The material selection process starts at the design stage, where we analyze available options for their environmental impact and energy efficiency.

When designing warehouses, we make every effort to ensure that our buildings have a minimal carbon footprint throughout their life cycle, from the production of construction materials, through the construction process, operation, and eventual waste management during demolition. To this end, we have developed a tool that allows us to calculate both the embedded and operational carbon footprint of warehouses, enabling us to choose optimal solutions at the design and technical specification stages.

For example, in our projects, we use what we call "green steel," a material with a high recycled content produced using renewable energy. This type of steel has lower CO2 emissions in its production process, aligning with our goals of reducing the carbon footprint of our investments. We also choose materials that are durable and resistant to mechanical damage and corrosion, ensuring the longevity of our buildings and minimizing maintenance costs.

Are there any main principles you implement or plan to implement in the construction process?

Marcin Nalepa: Yes, these principles stem primarily from our sustainable development strategy. We aim to design with eco-design principles and a life-cycle perspective in mind. We also implement policies that prioritize selecting subcontractors operating according to the circular economy (CE) principles and work on adapting buildings to comply with EU taxonomy. We strive to extend the life cycle of buildings through designs that allow for future adaptation, utilize locally available resources and services, and apply energy-efficient technologies and renewable raw materials. Our priority is, of course, decarbonization and the use of renewable and circular solutions.

0509_booster_0001M-2What specific actions do you take to ensure that the materials selected for your projects meet your environmental and quality standards?

Marcin Nalepa: During construction, we work with general contractors to ensure our standards are met. We often conduct audits and quality tests to ensure all materials used in the project meet our requirements. This enables us to create buildings that are not only environmentally friendly but also meet our tenants' expectations in terms of functionality and comfort. Our contracts with subcontractors include guarantees that these standards will be met, which motivates everyone involved in the construction process to maintain high standards, knowing they will be verified.

Can you elaborate on the green steel and its environmental impact?

shutterstock_131298404-1Marcin Nalepa: Of course. The green steel we use in our projects is made from 80-100% recycled scrap steel. The production process is powered by renewable energy, further reducing its environmental impact. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with this steel production range from 0.3 to 0.4 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram, comparable to the emissions of laminated wood, which is about 0.3 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram. This means that, in terms of carbon footprint, our green steel is as beneficial for the environment as wood.

What benefits do certified materials bring to the environment and surrounding areas?

Marcin Nalepa: The use of certified materials, such as the innovative steel mentioned, brings numerous benefits to the environment and our construction operations. Primarily, it reduces CO2 emissions during production, contributing to lowering our carbon footprint and combating climate change.

For example, green steel ensures high durability and strength of the structures, which is crucial for logistics buildings that must withstand intensive use. Using renewable energy in the production process also reduces dependence on fossil fuels, which is important for the long-term sustainability of our projects. We also perform life cycle analysis (LCA) of our materials, allowing us to assess their environmental impact at every stage, from production to operation and disposal. As a result, our buildings are more durable, less costly to maintain, and environmentally friendly.

Does using certified materials and advanced technologies involve higher costs? What is LemonTree’s approach to this challenge?

Marcin Nalepa: Yes, using certified materials and technologies often involves higher initial costs. However, this is a conscious choice and part of our overall business strategy, as we want our buildings to meet the highest standards of sustainable development from the outset. We also see that our approach is welcomed and appreciated by our clients. The growing awareness of sustainable construction in the market encourages us and motivates us to continue developing in this direction. Investing in quality and ecology benefits not only the environment but also our tenants, who appreciate lower operating costs and better working conditions.

shutterstock_2291177381Recently, there has been a lot of talk about high energy costs. What savings can be achieved by using technologies and materials that support the energy efficiency of logistics buildings?

Marcin Nalepa: Energy efficiency is one of our priorities. We use several technologies that significantly reduce energy consumption. For example, installing photovoltaic panels and heat pumps can reduce energy consumption by up to 30%. Additionally, using materials with high thermal insulation, such as 24 cm thick mineral wool on the roof instead of the standard 18-20 cm, significantly improves the energy performance of buildings. This allows us to save on heating and cooling costs, translating into lower energy consumption and CO2 emissions – this is important especially for tenants who will use these buildings for years. It can help them achieve their own sustainability goals and increase cost efficiency.

What is the significance of using materials with appropriate strength and durability in the context of building logistics complexes?

Marcin Nalepa: The durability and strength of materials are crucial aspects of logistics construction. These buildings are heavily utilized, so they must be made of materials that ensure long-lasting durability. This is analyzed in the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) phase C, which concerns the building's usage. It is important to understand how materials impact the environmental footprint during the building's operation. Using high-quality steel and concrete, resistant to mechanical damage and corrosion, ensures that our buildings will serve for many years without the need for costly repairs. This not only reduces maintenance costs but also minimizes environmental impact by limiting the need for frequent material replacement, thus reducing additional resource and energy consumption.

Does LemonTree implement practices related to recycling and reusing construction materials on-site and during the operation of logistics buildings?

shutterstock_2418123151Marcin Nalepa: Yes, recycling and reusing materials are integral parts of our strategy. The construction sector generates over 35% of the waste in the EU. Therefore, on-site, we will segregate waste and maximize the use of recycled materials. They must be processed in accordance with EU waste legislation, including the European waste hierarchy. Construction and demolition waste generated during the construction process will be collected selectively. Confirmation of such selective collection, divided into specific waste fractions, can be the transfer cards provided to the investor of the complex within an agreed period. During the operation of buildings, waste and garbage issues belong to the tenants, which is a more complex topic. However, we can say that our general contractor is obliged to establish waste segregation systems on-site. Additionally, we are about to start a project related to circularity to develop circularity policies at every stage of the building's life – during construction and after demolition.

What other innovations in building materials do you use in your projects?

Marcin Nalepa: At LemonTree, we are constantly looking for innovative solutions to help us build more sustainable facilities. One such material is low-emission concrete, which, although still rare, is becoming increasingly popular due to its ecological properties. Concrete is the most widely used material in the world, second only to water in terms of resource consumption on Earth. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to its origin – everything largely depends on cement, the main ingredient responsible for 90% of total carbon content. Low-emission concrete is made using recycled materials and is less energy-intensive in production, significantly reducing its carbon footprint. We work with several suppliers, and such concrete can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 60-80% compared to traditional solutions.

Moreover, we are testing new technologies, such as algae biopanels, which can produce energy and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere simultaneously. Such innovations have great potential to change the way we perceive sustainable construction, and we are proud to implement them in our projects. However, it is worth adding that there is still much work and searching for breakthrough technologies and new solutions ahead of us and the entire industry. It is a process we want to actively participate in to support the development of sustainable construction.

Thank you for the conversation!