How energy efficient is your building?
By 2050 Earth's population will have grown by 3 billion
NOW is the time to build energy efficient buildings
In the coming decades, our planet will be a very different place. By 2050, there will be an additional 3 billion people on Earth and 70% of the world's population will be living in cities.
While many things about the future remain unclear, one thing is certain: more people in urban areas means an increased demand for new buildings. And unless we change the incredibly inefficient nature of today's buildings, it means an unprecedented increase in energy use. It's a ticking time bomb.
The fact is we can no longer ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room – our inefficient buildings consume 40% of the world's energy and are responsible for nearly the same amount of emitted carbon – more than in the transportation or industrial sectors.
The good news is that the opportunity exists to drastically reduce energy use in buildings in the next 40 years. All this is doable, in an efficient market, and we already have the technology solutions available that can reduce energy in buildings by at least 50%, possibly as much as 80%.
Energy efficiency saves money and creates jobs. The market for energy efficient technologies alone is valued at more than $1 trillion US dollars, and offers considerable opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
One example of governments trying to take appropriate action is President Obama's recent announcement of "The Better Buildings Initiative" that, if acted on by the US Congress, will ensure commercial buildings use energy more efficiently and effectively. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) was quick to applaud The White House on this announcement, and Björn Stigson, President of WBCSD, was quoted among other business leaders and advocacy groups in an official White House blog. This is a great example of what can be achieved when governments and business have a shared incentive and find common ground.
Another example is New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, started a program called "BuildSmart NY" which is designed to help State buildings become more energy efficient. In fact, his Executive Order 88 mandates a 20% improvement in energy efficiency of State Government buildings!
But many countries continue to ignore the cost of inaction. Simply put, companies and governments that don't make energy reductions a core economic principle now, will suffer in the long-term because of the insurmountable costs.
There is no question this initial investment will be crucial for businesses to prosper in the future. Unfortunately, there is currently a lack of market incentives, up-to-date building regulations and compliance to fully implement these measures. At the same time, we need transparency standards that allow the market to openly compete on building energy performance using a common and simple labeling system.
We need continued global leadership from government and business to accomplish what needs to be done. The transformation of the global building sector is a huge undertaking and represents huge opportunities. Without this partnership the two will continue to be separate entities, and societies will suffer in the long-term.
As part of this effort, the WBCSD launched the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) project in 2006. The EEB project assessed the impact of stock and new construction buildings on energy consumption. The EEB generated data that reveals the tremendous gap between reality and perception throughout the building industry. The project also advocates that successful change must include:
• The right financial mechanisms to make energy savings more valued by those involved in the development, operation and use of buildings.
• A holistic design approach, from city level to individual buildings that will encourage interdependence and shared responsibility among stakeholders in the building value chain.
• Mindset and behavioural changes to achieve action on energy efficiency by building professionals and building users.
These three levers have to be supported by policy frameworks, including specific regulations, taxes and subsidies, education and training.
But, as we all say, "talk is cheap" and both business and governments must come together to take concerted action. Business needs to take the lead and assess and rebuild its building portfolio with more energy efficient buildings and governments need to provide the right incentives, transparency structures, and uniform regulations, both for new and existing buildings, to enable the buildings market to operate efficiently.
In response the Energy Efficiency in Buildings Manifesto was launched in 2009 by WBCSD to demonstrate how companies could improve the energy performance of their buildings by implementing time-based targets that are realistic and accountable. To date, more than 100 organizations have signed up to the EEB Manifesto and committed their companies to improving the energy efficiency of their current building portfolio within three years. By signing onto the EEB Manifesto, member companies like DuPont, Lafarge, Philips, Skanska, Sinopec and United Technologies Corporation are walking the talk and demonstrating how business can create demand for energy efficient buildings in local markets worldwide and address key sustainable development challenges.
It's now time for governments to continue to do their part and meet business halfway. Governments in the developed countries must consider aggressive and comprehensive programs to drive the retrofitting of existing buildings and to increase the replacement rate of the worst performers. In addition, governments in developing countries need to enact strong building codes that match the rapid rate of growth and migration in these areas.
If business is walking the talk in its buildings, isn't it time for governments to help lead the march toward an energy efficient future by addressing the energy efficiency in all their public buildings?
This Article is by Christian Kornevall - Project director for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Energy Efficiency in buildings project