‘Building sector an essential part of the solution’
More than 1.25 billion square metres of buildings — almost double the size of Singapore — will be registered, renovated or certified as green building space over the next five years, under ambitious commitments made by Green Building Councils at COP21 in Paris recently.
Green Building Councils from around the world, including Mauritius, India and the United States, unveiled national commitments to transform the sustainability of their buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that the construction industry plays its part in limiting global warming to 2°.
Green building a cost-effective solution
Buildings currently account for around one third of global emissions. But green building is one of the most cost-effective solutions to climate change, which generates significant environmental, economic and societal benefits.
The commitments were made at Buildings Day — the official COP21 meeting led by Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology and former presidential candidate — and include:
• 25 Green Building Councils committing to register, renovate or certify more than 1.25 billion square metres of green building space and train more than 127,000 qualified green building professionals by 2020.
• All 74 national Green Building Councils supporting the high level commitment from the World Green Building Council (the global network of which they are members) to achieve Net Zero carbon new building and energy efficient refurbishment of existing building stock by 2050.
• 3 Green Building Councils (Canada, Australia and South Africa) committing to introducing Net Zero certification for buildings.
• More than 125 corporate members of Green Building Councils making bold commitments, including the French product manufacturing giant Saint-Gobain, Australian developer Lendlease and Swedish construction firm Skanska.
Turning point in history
A new alliance of 18 countries and more than 60 organisations, known as the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (which includes WorldGBC, its 74 Green Building Councils and their 27,000 member companies) was also launched, and publicly committed to help countries meet their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) through green building.
World Green Building Council chief executive Terri Wills says the commitments made mark a turning point in history.
“Politicians and business leaders now jointly recognise that the way we build can lead to economic growth and prosperity without risking life on the planet, and that the private sector is a driving force in achieving this goal.
“While the building sector is a major contributor to climate change, it is an essential part of the solution — and one that brings immediate benefits to economy and society,” Ms Wills says.
“Green Building Councils, their private sector members and government partners have committed to transform the global buildings industry to not only help us reach a 2° world tomorrow, but enable us to realise the direct benefits from a new way of building — today.
Just the start
“Committing to an area of green buildings twice the size of Singapore over the next five years is just the start. In 10 to 15 years’ time this action will catalyse a green building revolution which will see sustainable buildings become the norm.”
In India, the world’s third largest emitter of emissions and a country seen as critical to securing a strong global climate deal, the Green Building Council has committed to facilitate over 900 million sq m of registered green building footprint through voluntary industry-led initiatives, as well as supporting the Indian Government to meet its INDC through green building policies.
Green Building Councils in Australia, Canada and South Africa have also committed to introduce Net Zero certification for buildings. Net Zero buildings are those which have no net annual carbon emissions, achieved through a combination of energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation.
Ambitious certification targets
This move is significant because setting ambitious certification targets can help transform the market towards achieving these goals, and is critical in highlighting building assets that are at a reduced risk of exposure to climate change.
French product manufacturer Saint-Gobain, a member of the World Green Building Council’s Corporate Advisory Board, has committed to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2025, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its (tertiary) buildings by 75% by 2040.
Lendlease, also on the WorldGBC’s Corporate Advisory Board, has committed to developing to the highest two certifications in the regions they operate in, and deliver two major global community-scale developments that are net positive by 2020.
All Green Building Council and corporate member commitments are available on the web site of WorldGBC’s COP21 campaign Better Build Green.
To play its part in limiting global warming to 2°, the construction sector must reduce emissions by 84 gigatonnes by 2050 — the equivalent of not building 22,000 coal powered plants. The WorldGBC has committed to achieving this goal by enabling a market transformation.
This large-scale reduction of emissions is possible, but it will take transformative action and collaboration.
By 2018, green building in the United States will account for more than 3.3 million jobs, more than one third of the entire United States construction sector.
Green Building can improve people’s health, well-being and productivity. For example, improved indoor air quality can lead to productivity improvements of up to 11%.