Knowledge gaps hinder energy-efficient building transition
Technology to deliver "dramatic" cuts in emissions already exists, but knowledge gaps andÂ old habits mean progress in being madeÂ "at a snail's pace,"Â argues the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in a new report.
Energy savings in buildings could deliver larger CO2 cuts than the entire emissions of the transport sector based on 2050 projections, says the global business association in the latest progressÂ reportÂ for its 'Energy Efficiency in Buildings' project.Â
The European CouncilÂ has identified the rapid pace of newÂ construction in developing countries as an opportunity to introduce standardsÂ for lowering CO2 emissions in the sector, but alsoÂ stresses that developed countriesÂ must refurbish their existing stock to lowerÂ energy consumption.
WBCSD concludes that building professionals' misjudgement ofÂ costs and benefitsÂ representsÂ a majorÂ obstacle toÂ the project's goalÂ of havingÂ all new buildingsÂ consume zero net energy from external power supplies and producing zero net carbon dioxide emissionsÂ by 2050. "They seriously over-estimate the cost of achieving energy efficiency and underestimate the potential to reduce emissions," it says.
To overcome such barriers, business recommends taking a holistic design approach, encouraging integration andÂ responsibility-sharing across different sectors and actors involved in the value chain of the construction process. Ensuring that energyÂ is betterÂ valued byÂ such actors would serve as an incentive to move towards more efficiency, as buildings are nowadays more of a financial than functional product,Â it says.
The WBCSD argues that changesÂ to individual behaviourÂ are essential toÂ supporting more energy efficiency,Â on the part of bothÂ building professionals and users. Energy isÂ taken for granted in developed countries, which leads to "thoughtless waste", while developing countries oftenÂ consider its use as a status symbol, it says, concluding that the challenge will be raising awareness to change consumption patterns permanently.
The Energy Efficiency in Buildings project was set up in 2006 and will publish its final report early next year. It will call for "radical measures", and explore implications for both government and business. The findings will be used to develop a manifesto to raise awareness andÂ call for politicalÂ action.
Greening buildings is a timely issue. The European Commission recently presentedÂ a proposal to extend the scope of the 2002 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive by eliminating the current 1000m2 threshold required for buildings undergoing a major renovation to meet specific efficiency standards. It is hoped that the revision will generate 5â€“6% energy savings in the EUÂ by 2020. The Commission has also promised to launch a "Build-up" initiative in 2009, increasing "the awareness of the whole chain from authorities to the construction industry and citizens on the saving opportunities".
Developing countries in particular could makeÂ huge savingsÂ by investing in more energy-efficient buildings, according to a recentÂ reportÂ published by McKinsey. TheÂ management consulting firmÂ argued that sizeable investments in new capital stock made as a result of rapid economic growth in these countries offer an opportunity to "lock in lower energy consumption for decades to come" by building at the optimal level of energy efficiency.
- Commission:Â Proposal for a directive on the energy performance of buildings(13 November 2008)
- Commission press release:Â Energy efficient buildings save money: Recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings DirectiveÂ (13 November 2008)
Business & industry
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD):Â Energy Efficiency in Buildings Executive Brief #2 - Our vision: A world where buildings consume zero net energyÂ (18 November 2008)
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD):Â Energy Efficiency in Buildings
Think tank & academia
- McKinsey Global Institute (MGI):Â Fuelling sustainable development: The energy productivity solutionÂ (October 2008)