Business Partnership Targets Green Building Progress

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is forming an alliance of leading global companies to determine how buildings can be designed and constructed so that they use no energy from external power grids, are carbon neutral, and can be built and operated at fair market values.

The industry effort is led by United Technologies Corp., supplier of capital goods including elevators, cooling/heating and on-site power systems to the commercial building industry, and Lafarge Group, provider of building materials including cement, concrete, aggregates, gypsum and roofing. The WBCSD and the two leading companies are in discussions with many other principal global companies that are expected to join the project and will be announced shortly. Buildings today account for 40 percent of energy consumption in developed countries according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The effort announced today for transforming the way buildings are conceived, constructed, operated and dismantled has ambitious targets: By 2050 new buildings will consume zero net energy from external power supplies and produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions while being economically viable to construct and operate. Constructing buildings that use no net energy from power grids will require a combination of onsite power generation and ultra-efficient building materials and equipment. The project will comprise three phases, each producing reports that together will form a roadmap to transform the building industry. The first report will document existing green building successes and setbacks, the second will identify the full range of present and future opportunities, and the third will present a unified industry strategy for realizing those opportunities by 2050, specifically in China, India, Brazil, the U.S. and the European Union. Each report will take one year to complete and involve hearings and conferences with building contractors and suppliers, sustainability experts, government representatives, regulators, utility officials and others. “Green” buildings already are erected in various parts of the world but current cost structure prevents widespread adoption by general contractors. The project will build on these examples, aligning costs and benefits in the building equation and by working in close collaboration with architects, builders, suppliers and building owners to promote a more sustainable approach to construction. Existing standards for energy efficiency in buildings will be the starting point for the industry-led alliance. “Lafarge has been leading efforts in energy efficiency and sustainable construction in the building materials sector for a number of years, not only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the production process but also by developing materials that contribute to making buildings more energy efficient,” said Bertrand Collomb, Chairman of Lafarge. “In this context, Lafarge has been collaborating with leading architects to promote sustainable construction as illustrated by our partnership with French Architect Jacques Ferrier, which led to the development of the ‘Hypergreen’ concept: This multi-use tower building, designed for the world’s mega-cities, is highly energy self-sufficient thanks to the use of the latest construction methods and technologies.” “Buildings of tomorrow should be self-sufficient in energy and have carbon neutral emissions,” said Jan van Dokkum, president of UTC Power, a United Technologies company. “This can be done by incorporating renewable energy sources into a building’s design, optimizing energy efficiency of support systems, and taking advantage of geographic and culturally acceptable building practices. Additionally, this aim is enhanced by using the ‘cradle to cradle’ concept of producing, using and later re-using building materials. This vision of energy and carbon neutral designs is a necessary evolution we need to embrace to achieve sustainability for buildings.” Bjoern Stigson, President of the WBCSD, noted, “being smarter and more efficient about how we use energy in buildings will help us conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. We believe this initiative can provide extremely cost-effective solutions. It will also set the course for self-sufficient and environmentally sound buildings in which future generations will live, work and be entertained. Our partners are industry leaders with technological expertise and presence that no single existing organization or government could provide on its own.” The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, based in Geneva, brings together some 180 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress.
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