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Green Buildings Do Double Duty: Reduce Energy Use, Lower Financial Risk

KMPGbldgconstructionThe potential for energy use reductions in old and new buildings is significant, according to a report from KPMG. The study finds that energy consumption in buildings can be cut by 30 to 50 percent and still produce a positive return on investments. Plus, real estate groups can get a business boost from green buildings by attracting the best deals, strategic investors, and marquee anchor tenants, according to the report.

The report, “Climate Change: Risks & Opportunities in the Canadian Commercial Real Estate Market,” reveals that direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from the on-site combustion of fuels for heating and cooling, and the use of refrigerants, while indirect emissions come primarily from the GHGs released from fuel combustion related to producing construction materials and electricity used in the buildings.

The commercial building sector in Canada is estimated to account for 13 percent of Canada’s carbon emissions and 14 percent of end-use energy consumption, according to the report. The report also cites the International Energy Agency’s estimates from 2005 that reveal that buildings account for 20 to 40 percent of the world’s energy use, depending on a country’s climate and economy.

Similarly, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) finds that buildings account for 40 percent of the world’s energy use with the associated carbon emissions substantially more than those in the transportation sector. WBCSD’s 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.

The KMPG study cites several benefits to a “green” building. These include easier facility zoning and permitting, reduced tax burdens, and potentially lower insurance premiums.

The study also points out that a Canadian national market for carbon offsets related to building efficiency is under discussion. Researchers say forward-thinking companies will have long-term real estate agreements in place to address development, ownership, and sale of all environmental attributes accrued from their commercial properties.

The study suggests a GHG emissions assessment should be the start of all carbon management strategies for any large commercial real estate holding. The assessment should also include several information management elements ranging from organizational and operational boundary conditions to auditing and verification.

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