Is Green Building a Panacea for Construction Emissions?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
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A new report from the UN’s leading climate change body claims green building could be a key means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The landmark Fifth Assessment, released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has concluded that green building could play an essential role in any efforts to reduce the impact of anthropogenic global warming– particularly given projected gains in the emissions levels of the international construction sector.

The IPCC report concerns the methods, opportunities and costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the research for the piece involved the assessment of thousands of scientific papers in order to achieve a comprehensive overview of relevant issues.

According to the report, despite heightened public awareness of anthropogenic climate change, energy consumption as well as related greenhouse gas emissions remain on a rising trajectory, and will continue to grow in future in the absence of concerted action.

The construction sector, a key contributor to global warming, is expected to undergo a doubling of energy consumption and related emissions by mid-century if it proceeds along its current path.

The report points out, however, that the technology and capabilities required to achieve dramatic reductions in construction-related emissions are already in existence.

Green building methods and technologies which are currently available harbour the potential to make new facilities between 50 and 90 per cent more energy efficient than their conventional peers.

While the potential for green building to reduce construction-related emissions is immense, the report notes that aggressive, concerted action is needed in order to have a meaningful impact.

Action is necessary at all levels and chains of the construction sector, including policy development, the formation of standards and criteria, as well as the development and final implementation of technology. This applies to the full life cycle of buildings, from planning and design, to construction, operation and end-of-life.

The need for the rapid adoption of green building measures in the construction sector is all the more acute given that the absence of such efforts will “lock in” low efficiency performance for potentially decades in the future over the lifecycle of a completed facility.

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