The actual costs of green building are significantly less than is generally understood by builders and other stakeholders in the real estate and construction industries, and this misconception creates a major barrier to more energy efficiency in the building sector.
This is one of the major findings of a recent global survey of 1,400 industry professionals conducted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a global association of some 200 companies that serves as a business advocate for sustainable development.
Respondents estimated that building green costs 17% more than conventional construction. The actual difference is significantly less, approximately 5%, the survey found.
Respondents also estimated global greenhouse gas emissions from building as 19% of the total. In fact, those emissions account for 40% of the world total. The greatest portion of such building emissions are the result of HVAC system use.
The findings are reported in, "Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities," which summarizes the first phase of the WBCSD's Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project, 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.
"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, chairman and chief executive of United Technologies Corporation.
"Existing technologies combined with common sense design can increase energy efficiency by 35% and reduce heating costs by 80% for the average building in industrialized markets," he said.
United Technologies, headquartered in Hartford, Conn., provides high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries. Along with Lafarge, a world leader in building materials headquartered in Paris, it serves as co-chair of the project.
"Life cycle analysis shows that 80% to 85% of the total energy consumption and CO 2 emissions of a building comes from occupancy through heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water use," said Bruno Fafont, chairman and CEO of Lafarge.
"If we want to make an impact on climate change, we therefore need to tackle this challenge. Combining the right materials when designing a building envelope can greatly reduce a building's energy requirements, increase its life span and ensure consistent performance over time," he added.
The study also found that fewer than one in seven industry respondents has participated directly in a green building project. Involvement ranges from a high of 45% in Germany to just 5% in India. About 20% of architects, engineers and developers have been involved in green building projects, compared to 9% of owners and tenants.
Buildings already represent approximately 40% 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.