Investment in Energy Efficient Buildings Secures Jobs & Growth
As Julia Gillard works to build a consensus on an emissions trading scheme for a low-carbon future, a policy solution is already available. And it promises a 7.7% reduction in national emissions by 2020, and at the same time creates jobs and drives economic growth. Lend Lease’s Maria Atkinson shows the way.
Maria Atkinson in The Australian (2 July 2010):
AS Julia Gillard works to build a consensus on an emissions trading scheme for a low-carbon future, a policy solution is already available.
The policy promises a 7.7 per cent reduction in national emissions by 2020, and at the same time create jobs and drive economic growth.,
The focus is the building sector, one of the biggest employers of labour in Australia and the world.
Studies point to investment in energy-efficient buildings securing existing jobs in the building sector and driving growth in skills, jobs and innovation.
It also happens to be a sector responsible for 40 per cent of global energy use and more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, it has enormous potential for emissions reduction and presents the lowest cost abatement opportunity.
Since buildings are the places in which we live, work and play, and spend about 90 per cent of our lives, it is a sector that can affect our health and wellbeing. The good news is that the solution doesn’t demand substantial government funding. The role of government is rather to create a framework that will enable delivery of those benefits, and more.
From a global perspective, it is a solution that addresses current realities and is in step with international directions, as evidenced by discussions in Paris last month involving all the peak bodies for sustainable buildings, along with the lead author for the building chapter of the International Panel on Climate Change’s 4th Report, the International Standards Organisation, the Global Reporting Initiative Construction & Real Estate Sector Supplement, and the UN Environment Program Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative.
Diana Urge-Vorsatz, lead author for the building chapter of the IPCC 4th Report, presented research showing the emissions reduction potential in buildings was much higher than estimated in the report.
With her sights firmly on energy performance contractors and energy service companies, Dr Urge-Vorsatz said: “Sub-optimal retrofits should not be supported.”
This reinforces the argument that government should not direct funding towards incremental improvements in energy efficiency such as upgrading or replacing lighting or fans.
Such equipment upgrades are limited to energy savings of about 20 per cent when we know savings of greater than 50 per cent are achievable by allowing more natural light to reduce artificial lighting loads, and removing the need for fans and pumps by installing passive heating and cooling systems.
The Paris discussions also highlighted the number of players trying to standardise, or create, methods for measuring environmental impacts in the property sector, and reinforced that we should be aiming to help people make good decisions, not compounding the confusion with an ever-increasing volume of measures and tools.
Enter the Common Carbon Metric project, a joint effort of the World Green Building Council, the Sustainable Building Alliance and the UN Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative — chaired by Australia’s Che Wall.
Last month’s discussions affirmed that this work provided a roadmap to unify the efforts of the property industry and governments.
The Common Carbon Metric project has shifted the dialogue to simplification and distillation.
How do we measure things consistently and concisely internationally while enabling local baselines, inputs and targets?
How do we provide the simplified metric in a way that can meet key decision-making needs without superfluous information, excess cost or lack of attention to key issues?
The Common Carbon Metric targets three key needs:
- Baselining and inventory reporting to allow consistent reporting of operational carbon footprints from buildings for both portfolio reporting and national emissions inventories.
It will also facilitate comparisons of buildings across cities and countries with the same climatic conditions.
- Market benchmarking to provide a consistent framework for mandatory disclosure and harmonisation of decision-making rating tool metrics.
- Monetisation of greenhouse abatement from energy efficiency, subject to Kyoto-compliant methods for targeting, monitoring and verification, to facilitate capital allocation.
Ultimately, this work will help property companies decide whether their assets are better or worse performers against the city average for that class or type of building. Lend Lease is one of the companies participating in a trial of the Common Carbon Metric for Baselines.
This work will also be important for organisations that use sustainability performance frameworks. And of course it will be an important component of national greenhouse gas emissions reduction action plans.
Looking to the future, while the focus is on the sector reporting framework for energy and carbon, the same framework could be used for other environmental and social indicators, such as water.
For the moment, it is time for governments to recalibrate their efforts and look at a policy suite for carbon in buildings that complements the simplicity and breadth of the work started by the Common Carbon Metric project.
Maria Atkinson is group head of sustainability for Lend Lease