The World Resources Institute Ross Center for Sustainable Cities has released a report – “Accelerating Building Efficiency” – that speaks to a lot of constituencies at a high level about the advantages of improving the energy efficiency of buildings. It also tells the various stakeholders the best ways to turn that vision into a reality.
The premise of the report, which was written in conjunction with 14 organizations, is that increasing energy efficiency in buildings is the quickest, cheapest and least intrusive way of addressing increasingly pressing environmental concerns. Often, there are societal goals that most people agree are prudent. The problem is that actually implementing the steps requires buy-in from a wide and diverse array of stakeholders. It is, in some ways, a creative process. Standards, best practices and other measurable gauges of compliance must be developed. Rules and laws must be promulgated and myriad other official and informal steps must be taken.
This process — shepherding good ideas from inception to actual use — is the subject of the document, which the organization describes as a “policy roadmap.” It is designed to help city-level leaders to surmount challenges and actually implement environmental and energy efficiency steps.
The report assesses economic development, social development and environmental sustainability. The bottom line is that action must be taken. Buildings, the report says, are responsible for 32 percent of global energy consumption and 25 percent of man made carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge will grow: By 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in buildings.
But, at the same time, increasing energy efficiency in buildings is a powerful tool. Energy efficiency, according to a study by the International Energy Agency cited in the report’s executive summary, has the potential to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5.8 billion tons and gas emissions by 83 percent by 2050. The report says that every dollar invested in energy efficiency saves two dollars in energy generation and distribution.
Eric Mackres, the Manager of the Building Efficiency Initiative for the World Resources Institute and Co-Author of the Report told Energy Manager Today that the report is a guide for urban leaders to help them respond more efficiently to the challenges. In a blog written in connection to the release of the report, Mackres highlighted the potential of energy efficient buildings:
Efficiency improvements in buildings often have low or no marginal cost, or provide a return on investment in the form of energy cost savings in as quickly as six months to a year. This is a significant difference from emissions-saving investments in other sectors such as agriculture or transport, which are relatively expensive or result in lower emissions reductions.
Despite the high level at which the document is written, the guide is relevant to people who work in buildings, Mackres said. It describes how both seasoned energy efficiency professionals newcomers should think about working with building owners, tenants and about investments.
It is interesting that Mackres points to very different ways in which building and energy managers in the private sector deal with issues different than those managing buildings for the government. “Procurement of equipment and services occurs in a different way in the government,” he said.
The report is comprehensive. It focuses on eight areas: Building efficiency codes and standards; efficiency improvement targets; performance information and certification; incentives and finance; the importance of governments leading by example; engagement of building owners, managers and occupants; engagement of technical and financial service providers and the need to work with utilities.
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