Green Buildings Are the Easiest Way to Cut CO2 Emissions

April 24, 2008
North America's buildings cause the annual release of more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere (about 35 percent of the continent's total)

Promoting the green design, construction, and operation of buildings could cut North American greenhouse-gas emissions more deeply, quickly, and cheaply than any other available measure, according to a new report, Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges, issued by the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

The report details how North America's buildings cause the annual release of more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent's total. The report also says that rapid market uptake of currently available and emerging advanced energy-saving technologies could result in over 1,700 fewer megatons of CO2 emissions in 2030. A reduction of that size would almost equal the CO2 emitted by the entire U.S. transportation sector in 2000.

Green buildings routinely reduce energy usage by 30, 40, or even 50 percent over conventional buildings. The report notes that the most efficient buildings now perform 70-percent better than conventional properties. Despite these numbers, and the other proven benefits of green building, just 2 percent of new, nonresidential building is green. Rapid growth, though, is forecasted for green building.

The authors of the report provide recommendations for accelerating the market uptake of green building with the aim of making it the standard practice for all new construction and renovation in North America. Among the recommendations are the following:

  • Create national, multi-stakeholder task forces charged with achieving a vision for green building in North America.
  • Support the creation of a North America set of principles and planning tools for green building.
  • Set clear targets to achieve the most rapid possible adoption of green building in North America, including aggressive targets for carbon-neutral or zero-energy buildings, together with performance monitoring to track progress toward these targets.
  • Enhance ongoing or new support for green building, including efforts to promote private-sector investment and proper valuation methods.
  • Increase knowledge of green building through research and development, capacity building, and the use of labels and disclosures on green-building performance.

The report also states some alarming statistics. In the United States, buildings account for 40 percent of total energy use, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of total carbon-dioxide emissions.

For more information on the report, go to

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