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Building Sector Needs to Reduce Energy Use 60% by 2050

buildinglifecycleA new study on energy efficiency in buildings (EEB) indicates that the global building sector needs to cut energy consumption in buildings 60 percent by 2050 to help meet global climate change targets. According to The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the building sector must achieve greater energy efficiency through a combination of public policies, technological innovation, informed customer choices, and smart business decisions.

According to WBCSD, buildings account for 40 percent of the world’s energy use with the resulting carbon emissions substantially more than those in the transportation sector. The organization recommends that governments, businesses and individuals start to aggressively reduce energy use in new and existing buildings in order to reduce the planet’s energy-related carbon footprint by 77 percent or 48 Gigatons (against the 2050 baseline) to stabilize CO2 levels to reach the level called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The study, “Transforming the Market: Energy Efficiency in Buildings,” offers recommendations and an actionable roadmap to help transform the building sector. The EEB project is focused on six markets — Brazil, China, Europe, India, Japan and the U.S., which represent nearly two-thirds of the world’s energy use. According to the study, many energy efficiency projects are feasible with today’s energy costs. For example, at oil prices of $60 per barrel, building energy efficiency investments in the six markets studied, totaling $150 billion annually, will reduce related energy use and carbon footprints by 40 percent with five-year discounted paybacks. Currently, oil is about $50 a barrel.

An additional $150 billion with paybacks between five and 10 years will add 12 percent and bring the total reduction to slightly more than half. EEB modeling shows that increasing the price of energy or carbon will only slightly increase the implementation of energy-efficient options.

For commercial building owners, green buildings can  garner higher rental premiums. According to new study, “Green Noise or Green Value? Measuring the Price Effects of Environmental Certification in Commercial Buildings,” conducted by the Henley University of Reading in the U.K., the results indicate that certified buildings provide a rental premium and that the more highly rated that buildings are, the higher the rent. Based on a sample of transaction prices for 292 Energy Star and 30 LEED-certified buildings, price premiums were 10 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

One new European policy is aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions along with reducing its dependence on Russian gas. Showers, taps, windows and home insulation will now have to conform to environmental standards in the European Union, after lawmakers voted to widen the scope of existing “eco-design” regulation, reports Reuters.

Although the design standards have not been set, the new standards are expected to particularly impact the glazing industry, as the European Union moves toward its goal of cutting energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, reports Reuters.

According to the Reuters article, the European Commission estimates that if the share of replacement windows being double-glazed increased 30 percent, the EU would save the amount of power generated by two to three nuclear power stations.

Another recent survey shows that large cities in the U.S. are already working to lower their carbon footprint with more than half of big cities surveyed either currently creating a sustainability plan or have finished one within the past year. These plans include a focus on green buildings.

To help building designers achieve the 2030 Challenge, which is a global initiative endorsed by the American Institute of Architects that addresses the need to reduce building energy use, Perkins+Will has recently released its free online e2 Energy Estimating Tool.

This energy estimating tool allows users to set target goals for four key areas: energy efficiency, on-site and grid-supplied renewable energy, plus green power offsets (RECs) when designing new buildings or retrofitting existing buildings.

In response to the urgency of global climate change, Perkins+Will has made the beta tool available to anyone. Click here for the beta-version of the 2030 e2 Estimating Tool.

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2 thoughts on “Building Sector Needs to Reduce Energy Use 60% by 2050

  1. A sixty percent reduction in energy use in buildings is possible, but is a daunting task. To achieve it would require an aggressive, comprehensive set of policies, market mechanisms – and, perhaps just as important, a change in worldview among business managers. This will be no easy task – especially with a growing and increasingly urban population. Here are the University of Vermont’s Institute for Global Sustainability (http://learn.uvm.edu/igs/), we seek to educate students and citizens to serve as leaders in the transition to a sustainable world. Courses focused on ecological economics, for example, address the public policy issues inherent in the achievement of projects, such as a reducing a countrys energy use. And offerings in the field of collaborative management (http://learn.uvm.edu/igs/collaborative_management) are designed to help leaders involved in the public-private partnerships and cross-sector collaborations necessary to achieve the type of goal described in this article.

  2. This study underscores the opportunity to make energy efficiency and renewables work together. Through performance contracting, energy efficiency improvements cut utility costs and the savings can fund the high initial costs of renewables such as wind, solar or biomass. In addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, this approach helps stabilize an organization’s energy supply, works as a hedge against energy price fluctuations, improves the organization’s public image, produces more comfortable and productive indoor environments and helps create green jobs for the local economy.

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