Green design, construction, renovation and operation of buildings could cut North American greenhouse gas emissions more deeply, quickly and cheaply than other measure according to a new report.
The report published by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) champions the concept of green building as an effective way to cut North America's carbon-dioxide (CO2) emission levels by a third. It promotes wider implementation of green building initiatives as the best method to reduce emissions and energy waste. It aims to encourage North American leaders to promote green building practices, which the CEC believes will lead to environmental, economic, and social improvements.
Currently, buildings codes vary from state to state in the USA with patchy attention to environmental aspects. Canada has a more consistent approach with a national building code subject to modifications by the provinces; however the national building code does not deal with environmental aspects, this is left to the provinces themselves.
Moreover, the cautious prescriptive approach of codes developed to protect the public from fire and other hazards has unfortunately hindered environmentally-friendly building in a number of ways: making use of alternative building materials and innovative design strategies difficult; unintentionally requiring environmentally harmful practices; and not imposing requirements for environmentally preferable practices
As a result, according to the CEC, current building practices have a negative impact on the environment in North America. For instance, buildings in Canada, Mexico, and the USA are responsible for 33%, 17%, and 40% of all energy used. And US buildings are responsible for 38% of total carbon emissions and 60% of non-industrial waste.
The CEC estimates that green buildings could reduce current energy use by 30%, carbon emissions by 35% and water use by 30 to 50%, while also generating waste cost savings of 50 to 90%. It therefore recommends making green building the standard practice for all construction and renovation projects in North America.
CEC report: ‘Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges’: http://www.cec.org/greenbuilding/
Europe has a variety of activities at EU and Member State level in the green building sector in support of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which came into force in January 2003. The EPBD is a key legislative element of European energy efficiency activities designed to meet the EU Kyoto commitment and respond to issues on energy supply security.
The EPBD Buildings Platform is a Commission initiative in the framework of the Intelligent Energy – Europe programme, which provides information services for practitioners and consultants, experts in energy agencies, interest groups and national policy makers in the European Member States for helping the implementation of the EPBD
In October 2006, the Commission published its Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the potential", which identified energy efficiency in the building sector as top priority, with a key role for the EPBD in realising the savings potential in the sector, estimated at 28%, which in turn can reduce the total EU final energy use by around 11%.
The Commission launched the European GreenBuilding Programme for non-residential buildings in 2005, supported by the EU Intelligent Energy Europe Programme. GreenBuilding recognises the need for change in energy demand and emission levels of traditional construction techniques. In a pilot phase in 2005-2006, the GreenBuilding infrastructure was set up in ten European countries. The successful work is now being continued in a second phase – called GreenBuildingPlus – that started December 2007.
ETAP itself focuses on the building sector, with sustainable construction the subject of the second ETAP forum in Brussels in 2007. And the new Eco-innovation programme, part of the Competitiveness and Information Framework Programme (CIP) identified building as on of four priorities its pilot and replication project funding in 2008.
Sustainable construction is also one of the six sectors selected for the Commission’s lead market initiative announced in February 2008.