Buildings, biggest opportunity reducing carbon

Low CO2 opportunities for Buildings (2)

CO2 emissions savings as high as 5.8 billion tonnes by 2050 WorldWide

Buildings are the biggest opportunity to reduce carbon for cities. A study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that, if implemented globally, energy efficiency measures in the building sector could deliver CO2 emissions savings as high as 5.8 billion tonnes (Gt) by 2050, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent below the business-as-usual scenario. 

Most of these technologies are commercially available today and many of them deliver positive financial returns within relatively short payback periods.

Buildings will affect livability for decades

Rapid rates of urbanization in much of the world will lead to an unprecedented expansion of the built environment. The choices being made today about how to build, design, and operate these buildings will affect urban services and livability for decades. Efficient, high-performance, and productive buildings will be a major factor in creating sustainable cities, which, in turn, contribute to sustainable development goals at the regional and national level.

Green buildingsLocal governments can influence

Local governments can influence the efficiency of new and existing buildings in their communities as owners/investors, conveners/facilitators, or regulators. They can deploy a variety of policy options, ranging from setting targets and leading by example to implementing codes and performance systems, providing financial and non-financial incentives, and supporting stakeholders in buildings in ways that improve the business case for pursuing or financing bio-based materials, energy and water efficiency.

Green efficient building

Efficiency goals should connect to specific priorities of local governments and communities, ensuring that the government and citizens optimize, minimize concrete, manage water, energy, build with natural materials, waste, as appropriate. Policies and programs can support efficient use of resources to provide heating, cooling, lighting, and domestic water, as well as to operate appliances and equipment installed or used in a building. This report serves as a reference guide for identifying and prioritizing appropriate actions to advance efficiency in both communities and organizations.


Policy design processes incorporating multi-stakeholder, integrative planning efforts can be an effective tool. Integrative planning that engages the buildings sector will help inform governance, policies, and decision-making. Integration of building efficiency in broader urban planning activities can also help institutionalize efficiency strategies across disparate departments within a government.

Policy can help align the interests of all actors around implementing cost-effective efficiency options at each stage of a building’s lifecycle. These stages and their relationship to energy and resource performance comprise the following:

  • Land-use and other urban planning decisions may affect buildings both before and after their construction is proposed. Policies already in place determine many aspects of building design. Urban planning acts as a constraint on private development, and may be intended to improve health, safety, or other desired characteristics of a city or neighborhood. Combining urban planning with energy and resource planning provides a unique opportunity to accelerate efficiency in the built urban environment.
  • The design and construction process includes the siting, orientation, shape, and height of a building as well as the materials and design features of the building. These factors, and the quality of the construction process, will determine indoor and outdoor comfort and energy performance of the building.
  • When the building is put up for sale or lease, the developer, realtor, appraiser, owner, and lender should be able to consider the building’s efficiency in the property value assessment. In addition, future operating costs, including energy use, should be a factor in the bank’s loan evaluation of potential buyers.
  • Building out new tenant space inside an existing building creates an opportunity to invest in high-performance, resource efficient options, including lighting and energy control systems.
  • Tenants and owners make ongoing operations and maintenance decisions. Many of these decisions—from setting the schedule for heating or cooling to how often equipment is tuned up—affect resource usage, and provide an opportunity to improve efficiency.
  • Existing buildings periodically need an efficiency retrofit to upgrade equipment, renovate the design, and ensure that building systems are performing well and are energy and water efficient. Improvements to space heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), water heating, insulation, water fixtures, energy control systems, and lighting are common retrofit measures.
  • Finally, a building may experience major re-building, or be identified for deconstruction or demolition, which starts the cycle over again and offers new opportunities for finding efficiencies.

The Josey Pavilion; the perfect example

The Josey Pavilion is designed to last the test of time. A simple palette of naturally durable materials is used and the most delicate of these materials, the Sinker Long Leaf Pine, is protected by large overhangs and lifted off the ground by a concrete wall that also serves as a seat wall along the edge of the porches.

The Josey Pavilion

The Josey Pavilion acts as a demonstration tool for how to mitigate the negative effects of waste and storm water. Rainwater is collected from the roof and stored in a 13,000-gallon cistern.

The Josey Pavilion is constructed in a way where long-term flexibility and adaptability is possible.

  • Bolted connections were used throughout the structural frame, which would allow for easy deconstruction and reconstruction.
  • Also, the buildings consists of two identical gable forms.
  • At three of the four gable ends, porches form the last structural bay and protect the end walls from the harsh east and west sun.
  • In the main meeting space, these porches could be captured and the large glass pivot doors that currently enclose the space could be removed and re-set at the outer-most structural bay to gain an additional 900-square-foot meeting space.




Buildings lifecycle

Multiple barriers to building efficiency exist, which may make efficiency a lower priority for investment. More specifically, local governments are often confronted with an “efficiency gap,” which can be defined as the difference between technically possible savings, and the savings that are easily achieved. The barriers to improving efficiency are well established, although their severity varies among countries and cities. Barriers consist of market, financial, technical, institutional, and awareness-related issues, which can prevent or deter people from making efficiency investments.

Policies can help overcome these barriers when they align the interests of all actors at each stage of a building’s lifecycle in order to make pursuing building efficiency a compelling choice. Policy packages can be designed to target key barriers to energy efficiency in any given market, bridge the efficiency gap, and create an opportunity for scaling up efficiency solutions and investment.


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