It is clear that these climatological and economic problems call for radical changes to our attitudes and behaviors. In the 1970s, after the first oil crisis, sustainability-focused mostly on developing better-insulated buildings. The 1990s saw experimentation with integrated architectonic climate concepts: in particular, grass roofs, atria, and high-tech double-skin façades. Governments and environmental organizations developed new quality labels like the international FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), a quality label for paper or wood that declares the products were sourced from a sustainably managed forest to which Reynaers has subscribed) and the several low energy labels, like the Passiv Haus quality mark for buildings with an extremely low energy demand for heating and cooling.
It took the 2002 publication of the book and concept ‘Cradle to Cradle,’ by the architect William McDonough and the chemist Michael Braungart, and the 2006 release of Al Gore’s film about global warming ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for the general public to grasp the concept of sustainability. As buildings are responsible for 40% of the total CO2 emissions in the EU, the construction industry has now also placed sustainability at the top of the agenda. ‘The problem is urgent indeed,’ says Nigel Jollands, Principal Administrator in the Energy Efficiency and Environment Division of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who acts, among other things, as a consultant for G8 countries. ‘We thoroughly need to change our energy systems, as they are polluting and expensive. And if you know that the building industry consumes a substantial part of a country’s energy, taking measures here definitely makes sense.’