Alliance Strives for Zero-Net Energy Commercial Buildings by 2050

April 7, 2006
Top global companies join with WBCSD to make energy self-sufficient buildings a reality

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development recently announced that it is forming an alliance of leading global companies to determine how buildings can be designed and constructed so that they use no energy from external power grids, are carbon neutral, and can be built and operated at fair market values.

The industry effort is led by United Technologies Corp., the world's largest supplier of capital goods including elevators, cooling/heating and on-site power systems to the commercial building industry; and Lafarge Group, the world leader in building materials including cement, concrete, aggregates, gypsum, and roofing. The WBCSD and the two lead companies are in discussions with many other leading global companies that are expected to join the project and will be announced shortly.

Buildings today account for 40 percent of energy consumption in developed countries according to the OECD. The effort announced today for transforming the way buildings are conceived, constructed, operated, and dismantled has ambitious targets: By 2050 new buildings will consume zero net energy from external power supplies and produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions while being economically viable to construct and operate.

Constructing buildings that use no net energy from power grids will require a combination of on-site power generation and ultra-efficient building materials and equipment.

The project will comprise three phases, each producing reports that together will form a roadmap to transform the building industry. The first report will document existing green building successes and setbacks, the second will identify the full range of present and future opportunities, and the third will present a unified industry strategy for realizing those opportunities by 2050, specifically in China, India, Brazil, the United States, and the European Union.

Each report will take 1 year to complete and involve hearings and conferences with building contractors and suppliers, sustainability experts, government representatives, regulators, utility officials, and others.

"Green" buildings already are erected in various parts of the world but current cost structure prevents widespread adoption by general contractors. The project will build on these examples, aligning costs and benefits in the building equation and by working in close collaboration with architects, builders, suppliers, and building owners to promote a more sustainable approach to construction. Existing standards for energy efficiency in buildings will be the starting point for the industry-led alliance.

"Lafarge has been leading efforts in energy efficiency and sustainable construction in the building materials sector for a number of years, not only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the production process but also by developing materials that contribute to making buildings more energy efficient," says Bertrand Collomb, chairman of Lafarge.

"In this context, Lafarge has been collaborating with leading architects to promote sustainable construction as illustrated by our partnership with French Architect Jacques Ferrier, which led to the development of the 'Hypergreen' concept: This multi-use tower building, designed for the world's mega-cities, is highly energy self-sufficient thanks to the use of the latest construction methods and technologies."

"Buildings of tomorrow should be self-sufficient in energy and have carbon neutral emissions," says Jan van Dokkum, president of UTC Power, a United Technologies company.

"This can be done by incorporating renewable energy sources into a building's design, optimizing energy efficiency of support systems, and taking advantage of geographic and culturally acceptable building practices. Additionally, this aim is enhanced by using the 'cradle to cradle' concept of producing, using, and later re-using building materials. This vision of energy and carbon neutral designs is a necessary evolution we need to embrace to achieve sustainability for buildings."

Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD noted that "being smarter and more efficient about how we use energy in buildings will help us conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and address climate change. We believe this initiative can provide extremely cost-effective solutions. It will also set the course for self-sufficient and environmentally sound buildings in which future generations will live, work, and be entertained. Our partners are industry leaders with technological expertise and presence that no single existing organization or government could provide on its own.”

This information was reprinted with permission from the
Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which brings together some 180 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance, and social progress. For more information, visit

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