Green Building News

Green Building News April 2007

April 12, 2007

Buildings Can Play a Key Role in Combating Climate Change

Report Underlines How Often Simple and Low Cost Energy Savings Measures can Help Deliver the Kyoto Targets and Beyond

Significant gains can be made in efforts to combat global warming by reducing energy use and improving energy efficiency in buildings.

The right mix of appropriate government regulation, greater use of energy saving technologies and behavioral change can substantially reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the building sector which accounts for 30-40 percent of global energy use, says a new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative (SBCI).

The new report, Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities, says many opportunities exist for governments, industry and consumers to take appropriate actions during the life span of buildings that will help mitigate the impacts of global warming.

Citing the example of Europe, the report says more than one-fifth of present energy consumption and up to 45 million tons of CO2 per year could be saved by 2010 by applying more ambitious standards to new and existing buildings.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a supporter of SBCI, as a partnership between the building sector and the United Nations is essential to promote a more sustainable building sector in the U.S. and abroad. The USGBC's LEED Rating System is a tool for buildings to reduce their impact on the land while also helping to help combat climate change. USGBC continues to update the rating system to correspond with the latest research, including SBCI's report. In November 2006, USGBC unveiled its own climate commitment, including requiring that all LEED projects reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent. USGBC also committed to becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2007, and now offers certification rebates for all buildings that achieve a Platinum LEED rating.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Energy efficiency, along with cleaner and renewable forms of energy generation, is one of the pillars upon which a de-carbonized world will stand or fall. The savings that can be made right now are potentially huge and the costs to implement them relatively low if sufficient numbers of governments, industries, businesses and consumers act."

"This report focuses on the building sector. By some conservative estimates, the building sector world-wide could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tons of CO2. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tons or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol," he added.

"There is more low hanging fruit to be harvested. Several countries, including Australia, Cuba and the European Union are looking to phase out or ban the traditional incandescent light bulb that has been around for well over a century in various forms. The International Energy Agency estimates that a total global switch to compact fluorescent bulbs would, in 2010 deliver CO2 savings of 470 million tons or slightly over half of the Kyoto reductions. We have to ask what the hurdles are-- if any--to achieving such positive low cost change and set about decisively and swiftly to overcome them, if they exist at all," said Mr Steiner.

Key Points from the Buildings and Climate Change Report
In the lifetime of an average building most energy is consumed, not for construction, but during the period when the building is in use. That is, when energy is being used for heating, cooling, lighting, cooking, ventilation and so on.

Recognizing this, the report pushes for a greater use of existing technologies like thermal insulation, solar shading and more efficient lighting and electrical appliances, as well as the importance of educational and awareness campaigns. Typically more than 80 percent of the total energy consumption takes place during the use of buildings, and less than 20 percent during construction of the same.

"To achieve improved energy efficiency in buildings you often do not need to use advanced and expensive high-tech solutions, but simple solutions such as smart design, flexible energy solutions and provision of appropriate information to the building users," says Olivier Luneau, SBCI Chairman and Director for sustainability at Lafarge.

"Simple solutions can include sun shading and natural ventilation, improved insulation of the building envelope, use of recycled building materials, adoption of the size and form of the building to its intended use etc," he said. "Of course you can achieve even better results if more sustainable construction system solutions are used, such as intelligent lighting and ventilation systems, low temperature heating and cooling systems and energy saving household appliances. Only by minimizing the energy use over the entire life span of the building can we harvest the full environmental and economic savings that the building sector offers."

In addition to a greater use of relevant energy saving technologies, the report stresses the importance of appropriate government policies on building codes, energy pricing and financial incentives that encourage reductions in energy consumption.

It also emphasizes that the building sector stakeholders themselves, including investors, architects, property developers, construction companies, tenants, etc. need to understand and support, such policies in order for them to function effectively.

The report also notes that approaches to finding building solutions will vary. In developed countries the main challenge is to achieve emission reduction among mostly existing buildings, and this can largely be done by reducing the use of energy.

In other parts of the world, especially places like China where almost 2 billion square meters of new building space is added every year, the challenge is to leapfrog directly to more energy efficient building solutions, the report says.

Download a copy of the UNEP SBCI Buildings and Climate Change report.


King County, Seattle Offering New Incentives for Green-building Residential Projects

The King County/Seattle Built Green™ Incentive provides funding for single-family residential, town home and community development projects to help offset the cost of certifying and designing innovative projects that meet green-building standards.

The program, which can provide $2,500 to $15,000 in financial incentives depending on the project and level of environmentally sustainable design and building elements employed, was announced at the fifth-annual Built Green Conference in Everett.

Incentives for the development industry to reduce their impact on the environment and conserve valuable natural resources have become increasingly important as local governments draw the connection between water conservation and quality, stormwater runoff and residential development, said Katie Spataro, project manager for King County's "Green Tools” program.

The new grants will be competitively awarded and are funded through the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks' Water and Land Resources Division and Seattle Public Utilities.

Built Green is a residential building program that provides a rating system for single- and multi-family housing projects, remodels and community developments. The program certifies projects at the one- through five- star level based on the number of points a project earns in categories that highlight energy and water conservation, healthy materials and minimized impacts to the property.

Spataro said King County helped develop the program in partnership with the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and relies on Built Green as an industry benchmark for qualifying green residential development.

The King County/Seattle Built Green Incentive was established to encourage developers, builders and residents building new homes to use green building standards while attempting to address barriers, such as higher upfront costs for projects. Grant award projects will serve as demonstrations of high performance, replicable, green housing for the region.

Built Green incentive applications and instructions will be available online by March 19 at, and must be submitted by May 4. More information is available by contacting Spataro, King County Solid Waste Division, at 206-263-6037, or

Green Homeowners Are More Satisfied -- And Motivated By Cost

A new home buyer survey finds a high rate of customer satisfaction among those who have purchased green homes – and that 63 percent of buyers are motivated by the lower operating and maintenance costs that come with energy- and resource-efficient homes.

NAHB and McGraw-Hill Construction, which conducted the research, released preliminary results of the findings at the 9th Annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) National Green Building Conference in St. Louis. It represents the first time the true green home market has been sized, screening out green home owners from a representative panel of U.S. home owners.

These home owners say they are extremely happy with their investments, with 85 percent saying they are more satisfied with their new green homes than with their previous, more traditionally built homes.

“We’re excited that green homeowners are so happy, and that this new research quantifies this customer satisfaction. But we are certainly not surprised,” said Ray Tonjes, chairman of the NAHB Green Building Subcommittee and an Austin, Texas home builder. “NAHB and its members have been leaders in the voluntary movement to increase the efficiency and quality of homes in America. This suggests we’ll maintain our market share and only continue to grow.”

The new survey also backs up recent finding by the NAHB Economics staff that interest in green remodeling continues to grow: About 40 percent of those who have recently completed home remodeling or renovation work in their homes reported that they used green products or materials, the McGraw-Hill Construction research found.

In a survey of NAHB builders that the company conducted last year, McGraw-Hill Construction estimated that 2 percent – or $7.4 billion – of the residential construction market contained green building elements, such as energy efficient windows. According to this new research, 0.3 percent of all existing United States homes are truly green, constructed using several different green building design features and products, a market sized at approximately $2 billion.

“It’s interesting that people are really starting to commit to building green homes, moving away from just adding energy efficient appliances,” said Harvey M. Bernstein, McGraw-Hill Construction Vice President of Industry Analytics, Alliances and Strategic Initiatives. “Though it’s still a small number, builders are already getting it when it comes to the value of green homes, and it appears homeowners are too.”

The research also found that:

- The new green home owner is affluent and well educated, in his/her mid-forties and married, and also more likely to be from the Southern or Western states. Women are also more likely to be green homeowners.

- 63 percent report lower operating and maintenance costs as the key motivation behind buying a green home. Additionally, nearly 50 percent said they are motivated by environmental concerns and their family’s health.

- More than 60 percent of those surveyed say that consumer awareness, additional costs and the limited availability of homes are obstacles to green homes gaining a bigger market share.

However, when looking at the “biggest” obstacles, green homeowners view education as the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Survey results will be published this summer in the next issue of the McGraw-Hill Construction SmartMarket Report series.


Developing Green: Integrating Sustainability with Success - April 23–24

Third annual Urban Land Institute Conference held at the Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This conference will update you on the latest issues surrounding sustainable development. Discover how green can be financially feasible. Learn what makes it work, how it differs from conventional practices, how your business can benefit from it, how you can maximize your profit and just how easy it is to develop green.

Topics include:

  • Green Building + Smart Growth = Sustainable Communities
  • Designing Whole Systems to Achieve Sustainability and Profitability
  • Residential Green: Healthful and Affordable
  • Financing Green Mixed-Use Projects
  • Land Use, Transportation, and a Sustainable Energy Future
  • Retrofitting Green: Getting the Biggest Bang for the Buck
  • Interactive Sessions: Striving for Sustainable Development by Adding Up Economy, Community, and Environment
  • Monetizing Energy Efficiency and Renewables – Green Tags, White Tags, Carbon Trading – What Does it Mean to Real Estate?


Fifth Annual International Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show - April 29 - May 1

Co-hosted with the City of Minneapolis, the Conference is organized by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) a not-for-profit industry association working to promote the green roof industry in North America.

The three-day conference will consist of plenary and specialized sessions focused on three main topic areas:

  • Policies and Programs to Support Green Roofs
  • Green Roof Design and Implementation
  • Research and Technical Papers on Green Roof Performance

Greening the Conference
This year, a part of the planning of the conference is devoted to minimizing its environmental impact. 
Carbon Emissions: Zerofootprint ( will help mitigate climate change by offseting carbon emissions produced from conference activities. Zerofootprint will plant trees and invest in sustainable energy to offset carbon emitted from electricity and heating, printing, shipping and transportation of all our delegates. The trees and water used will also be restored by Zerofootprint.

Hotel & Catering: With the cooperation of the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, use of disposable items will be eliminated and recycling receptacles provided throughout the conference areas. Whenever possible, organic and fair trade products will be used and within the hotel rooms, newspaper distribution and the replacement of linen and towels will be minimized. 

Printing: Materials will be printed locally, using soy-based ink on either 30 percent or 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Signage will employ recycled materials and there will be a system in place for the reuse of name badges.

Transportation: Locally sourced products and services will be used to minimize shipping. Also encouraged is the use of sustainable forms of transport including bicycles, foot and public transportation.

Guidelines are available on the website and exhibitors will be sent a checklist of things they can do to be environmentally responsible.   

Register at:

Decon '07 - May 14-16

Deconstruction, Building Materials Reuse, and C&D Recycling - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sponsored by the Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA), the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, and WasteCap Wisconsin. Of interest to those in the demolition, deconstruction or architectural salvage business, architects, builders or anyone else interested in materials reuse and recycling.

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