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Green Building Costs Less Than You Think

Key players in real estate and construction misjudge the costs and benefits of “green” buildings, creating a major barrier to more energy efficiency in the building sector. Respondents to a 1400 person global survey estimated the additional cost of building green at 17 percent above conventional construction, more than triple the true cost difference of about five percent.  At the same time, survey respondents put greenhouse gas emissions by buildings at 19 percent of world total, while the actual number of 40 percent is double this.

The findings are disclosed in a new report titled “Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and opportunities,” (PDF) from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The project is co-chaired by Lafarge and United Technologies Corporation.

“The global construction boom in the developing world has created a tremendous opportunity to build differently and dramatically decrease otherwise energy demands,” said United Technologies Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive George David.

“Existing technologies combined with common sense design can increase energy efficiency by 35 percent and reduce heating costs by 80 percent for the average building in industrialized markets,” he said. 

“The world is undergoing rapid transformation, with strong demographic and economic growth driving a move towards urbanization on an unprecedented scale. We as industry leaders have a responsibility to ensure that this growth is achieved in a sustainable manner,” said Bruno Lafont, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lafarge.

“Life cycle analysis shows that 80% to 85 percent of the total energy consumption and CO2 emissions of a building comes from occupancy through heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water use.  If we want to make an impact on climate change, we therefore need to tackle this challenge. Combining the right materials when designing a building envelope can greatly reduce a building’s energy requirements, increase its life span and ensure consistent performance over time,” he said.

The study also found that fewer than one in seven industry respondents has participated directly in a green building project. Involvement ranges from a high of 45 percent in Germany to just five percent in India. About 20 percent of architects, engineers and developers have been involved in green building projects, compared to just nine percent of owners and tenants.

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