The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been working hard to release their fifth assessment reports on climate change (AR5). Their report on “Mitigation of Climate Change” revealed that in 2010 the world’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) were 181% of 1970 levels. In fact, emissions over this 40 year period were responsible for half of all CO2 emissions since 1750. Such trends are clearly a cause for concern, but what contribution has the building sector made to this increase and what role does it have to play in the future?
Let’s first take a look at the current situation. In 2010, which is the latest data from the AR5 report, the building sector was responsible for 19% of the world’s GHG emissions.
This is a sizable contribution and is more significant than the share of transport at 14% but it is considerably lower than emissions from industry at 31%.
The building sector consumes a third of the world's energy
China's construction sector consumes around half of the world’s steel and cement and employs 37 million people, which is 23% more than the entire working population of the United Kingdom.
The building sector clearly has an important role to play. It will need to significantly bring down its energy consumption and corresponding GHG emissions. Fortunately, the opportunities to improve are significant, with recent advances in technologies, improvements in know‐how and the adoption of new policies. For new buildings the IPCC state the adoption of very low energy building codes is important and has progressed substantially since AR4, which was published in 2007. Retrofit also forms a key part of the mitigation strategy, particularly in developed countries where reductions of 50–90% in heating / cooling loads have been achieved. They further note that recent large improvements in performance and costs make very low energy construction and retrofits economically attractive, these can sometimes even be achieved at net negative costs.
Behaviour change is also noted as important, where similar buildings can operate with up to a five-fold difference in energy use. In fact, lifestyle and behavioural change could reduce energy demand by 20% in the short term and as much as 50% by 2050. Although naturally it should be noted that driving lifestyle and behaviour change is not an easy task, particularly in the short to medium term.
Building energy efficiency
This blog originally appeared on CIOBs Global Construction Review.
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