Report: 'Green' Building Costs Less Than You Think

Key players in real estate and construction misjudge the costs and benefits of "green" buildings, creating a major barrier to more energy efficiency in the building sector, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Respondents to a 1,400-person global survey estimated the additional cost of building green at 17 percent above conventional construction, more than triple the true cost difference of about 5 percent. At the same time, survey respondents put greenhouse gas emissions by buildings at 19 percent of world total, while the actual number of 40 percent is double this.

The findings are disclosed in a new report released on Aug. 21, "Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities." The document summarizes the first phase of a WBCSD project, which is co-chaired by Lafarge and United Technologies Corp. Other participating companies are CEMEX, DuPont, Electricité de France, Gaz de France, Kansai, Philips, Sonae Sierra, and Tepco.

"The global construction boom in the developing world has created a tremendous opportunity to build differently and dramatically decrease otherwise energy demands," said George David, United Technologies' corporation chairman and chief executive. "Existing technologies combined with common-sense design can increase energy efficiency by 35 percent and reduce heating costs by 80 percent for the average building in industrialized markets."

Bruno Lafont, chairman and chief executive officer of Lafarge, stated: "The world is undergoing rapid transformation, with strong demographic and economic growth driving a move towards urbanization on an unprecedented scale. We as industry leaders have a responsibility to ensure that this growth is achieved in a sustainable manner."

The study also found that fewer than one in seven industry respondents have participated directly in a green building project. Involvement ranges from a high of 45 percent in Germany to just 5 percent in India. About 20 percent of architects, engineers and developers have been involved in green building projects, compared to just 9 percent of owners and tenants.

Buildings already represent approximately 40 percent of primary energy use globally and energy consumption in buildings is projected to rise substantially in the world's most populous and fast growing countries such as China and India.

The study highlights opportunities to promote green building know-how and technologies as the WBCSD pushes for zero net energy construction worldwide. Zero net energy buildings will reduce demand by design, be highly efficient and generate at least as much energy as they consume, officials said.

The WBCSD's Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project is a three year initiative to assess the environmental impacts of buildings and develop means to achieve zero net energy use for residential and commercial buildings.

For more information on the report or on green building, visit http://www.wbcsd.ch.

Check out the archives of Environmental Protection magazine Web site for recent court decisions related to green building, including:

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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