Green Building Programs Essential to Sustainable Cities

Buildings are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions in many cities, making low-carbon buildings an essential component for the development of sustainable cities.

In a recent article for the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), Jonathan Dickinson and Mark Bessoudo, leaders on the WSP Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change team, wrote about the need for greater awareness and action for the construction of energy-efficient buildings that reduce carbon emissions.

Effectively reducing building emissions will require a combination of advancements in low-carbon energy systems technology and initiatives to reduce building-related energy use in both new and existing buildings. It is estimated that about half of the world’s building stock in 2050 will consist of buildings that already exist today, so improving the energy use patterns of existing infrastructure has the potential to play a major role in the advancement of low-carbon buildings.

Building energy technology will need to complement other related policies and initiatives to reduce building-related energy use and carbon emissions. One solution is as promising as it is simple: implement energy performance benchmarking and improve data transparency. Mandatory disclosure of building performance data is a relatively new practice that requires buildings owners to publicly disclose key environmental data, such as carbon emissions, energy consumption, and water use.

Disclosure programs have been — or are in the process of being — implemented in dozens of jurisdictions around the globe and can offer insight into the benefits of measuring, benchmarking and reporting these data. Jurisdictions that have implemented mandatory benchmarking policies have reported energy savings and subsequent financial benefits in a relatively short timeframe.

Mark Bessoudo (left) and Jonathan Dickinson (right) are leaders on the WSP Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change team.

Increasing Opportunities

Other environmental and financial benefits of mandatory public disclosure of building performance, include:
• providing building owners and managers with an effective and consistent measure of their building’s performance,
• enabling benchmarking to help set realistic and effective performance targets, and
• allowing utilities and service providers to use the data collected to create and tailor more effective energy conservation programs, policies, and incentives.

As more energy data become available, it becomes easier to identify which buildings — and which building types — are underperforming. Energy conservation programs can then target these buildings, making the task of improving their performance more manageable.

Mandatory public disclosure of building energy performance and minimum energy performance requirements have already resulted in building energy use and carbon emissions reductions in many North American cities, benefits that will increase with continued program development and implementation.

As more cities exert leadership through reporting requirements, additional real estate portfolios will be pushed to comply, offering increasing opportunities for improved environmental performance and cost savings.

Read the full article on the GRESB website.

GRESB is an international organization that assesses the sustainability performance of real estate and infrastructure portfolios and assets worldwide.

[To subscribe to Insights, contact the editorial staff at [email protected].]

[Insert your title here]

[Insert your text here]

More on this subject