VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Promoting the green design, construction, renovation, and operation of buildings could cut North American greenhouse gas emissions more deeply, quickly, and cheaply than any other available measure, according to a new report issued by the trinational Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).
North America’s buildings cause the annual release of more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent’s total. The report says rapid market uptake of currently available and emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could result in over 1,700 fewer megatons of CO2 emissions in 2030, compared to projected emissions following a business-as-usual approach.
It is common now for more advanced green buildings to routinely reduce energy usage by 30, 40, or even 50 percent over conventional buildings, with the most efficient buildings now performing more than 70 percent better than conventional properties, says the report.
Despite its environmental, economic, and health benefits, however, green building today accounts for a only small fraction of new home and commercial building construction - just 2 percent of the new nonresidential building market, less than half of 1 percent of the residential market in the United States and Canada, and less than that in Mexico.
The report, “Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges,” is the result of a two-year study by the CEC Secretariat. It was prepared with advice from an international advisory group of prominent developers and architects, sustainability and energy experts, real estate appraisers and brokers, together with local and national government representatives.
“Improving our built environment is probably the single greatest opportunity to protect and enhance the natural environment. This report is a blueprint for dramatic environmental progress throughout North America - mostly using the tools and technology we have on hand today,” said CEC Executive Director Adrián Vázquez. “Green building represents some of the ripest ‘low-hanging fruit’ for achieving significant reductions in climate change emissions.”
Even with rapid growth projected in the green building market across all three countries, the report says the public and private sectors must embrace substantial changes to the planning, development, and financing of commercial and residential buildings to overcome what it says are significant barriers to the widespread adoption of high-performance buildings throughout North America.
Jonathan Westeinde, managing partner of The Windmill Development Group in Ottawa and the CEC’s advisory group chair, stated, “As a developer, I rely on the fact that green building is a proven concept - with construction costs and market benefits that are rapidly improving. This report shows what is needed to scale up and put green building at the heart of a healthy, energy-secure North America.”
The report highlights the importance of green building in urban development. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, whose city hosted a CEC symposium on green building in May 2007, stated, “Green building is a cornerstone for creating strong, sustainable communities. In Seattle, we are convinced that cities that make the commitment and investment in green development now will have a significant advantage in the long run.”
To view a copy of the report, visit www.cec.org/pubs_docs/documents/index.cfm?varlan=english&ID=2242.
April 4, 2008: Promote Green Buildings for Biggest Cuts in Emissions, Says Report
April 4, 2008