Promoting the green design, construction, renovation and operation of buildings could cut North American greenhouse gas emissions that are fuelling climate change more deeply, quickly and cheaply than any other available measure, according to a new report, Green Building In North America, issued by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a panel set up by the U.S., Canada and Mexico to address environmental concerns.
North America’s buildings cause the annual release of more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent’s total. The report says rapid market uptake of currently available and emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could result in over 1,700 fewer megatons of CO2 emissions in 2030, compared to projected emissions that year following a business-as-usual approach. A cut of that size would nearly equal the CO2 emitted by the entire U.S. transportation sector in 2000.
It is common now for more advanced green buildings to routinely reduce energy usage by 30, 40, or even 50 percent over conventional buildings, with the most efficient buildings now performing more than 70 percent better than conventional properties, according to the report.
Despite proven environmental, economic and health benefits, however, green building today accounts for a only small fraction of new home and commercial building construction-just two percent of the new non-residential building market, less than half of one percent of the residential market in the United States and Canada, and less than that in Mexico.