Building potential untapped, UNEP report says

The huge potential of the building and construction sector for combating climate change remains virtually untapped, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative.

December 9, 2008

The report follows nearly two years of research and collaboration with leading experts around the world.

Hydro is a member of the Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative (SBCI), which is a partnership between the UN and leading companies and organizations in the construction sector.

According to the report, as of October 2008, only 10 out of an estimated 4,000 projects in the pipeline of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – the main international carbon market scheme under the Kyoto Protocol – seek to reduce energy use in buildings which account for one-third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide.

"Report after report is underlining the huge, cost-effective savings possible from addressing emissions from existing buildings, alongside designing new ones that include passive and active solar up to low-energy heating and cooling systems and energy-efficient appliances," says said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

Birgitte Holter, who is Hydro's representative on the UNEP SBCI board, says this also underlines the importance of Hydro's strategy of developing solutions for energy-neutral buildings.

Greening the construction boom

Greenhouse gas emissions from buildings worldwide are set to increase sharply over the next two decades, mainly due to construction booms in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Estimated at 8.6 billion metric tons in 2004, building-related GHG emissions could almost double by 2030 to reach 15.6 billion mt under the high-growth scenario, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

At the same time, today's commercially available technologies make it possible to halve energy consumption in both new and old buildings without significant investment, says the UNEP report The Kyoto Protocol, The Clean Development Mechanism, and the Building and Construction Sector.

Simple measures such as improved ventilation and insulation, increased use of natural lighting, the use of energy efficiency appliances and lighting alongside the use of solar and other natural heat sources, can save energy and costs.

Up to 90 percent of the energy a building uses during its entire life cycle is consumed for heating, cooling, lighting and other appliances. The remaining 10 percent is consumed during the construction, material manufacturing and demolition phases.

Setting firm ground

The report puts forward a number of recommendations to reinforce the CDM and other mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol aimed at boosting the role of the building and construction sector in combating climate change.

These include:

  • Developing national regulations and standards for building energy efficiency and/or sustainable building
  • Developing common baselines and building benchmarks for the CDM
  • Developing evaluation tools for building energy efficiency and CDM projects
  • Engaging the financial sector
  • Showcasing the potential through case studies and demonstration projects

More specifically, the report calls for other measures, such as using performance-based indicators, like energy-use-per-square-meter for project validation, monitoring and verification.

The largest integrated aluminium company in Europe, Hydro is one of the preferred suppliers of aluminium building systems worldwide. Its international brands – Domal, Technal and Wicona – cover the range of system products, from windows and doors for single-home residential solutions to the erection of façades on major structures such as new airports or high-rise buildings.


Updated: October 11, 2016