Zero-energy building sector vital to addressing climate change

13 February 2022 by Jason Quinn

Buildings have a big role in addressing climate change. This nice and short technical paper shows how reducing consumption is the only way to address climate change that does not demand large negative carbon sinks. Diana Ürge-Vorsatz is one of the co-authors and the paper includes discussion about her concept of the “lock-in effect” that I have found so useful.

“With ample evidence that the global building sector could be turned into a carbon neutral sector at net benefit, with great social benefits such as energy poverty eradication if energy savings are counted, complemented by a wide range of co-benefits such as improved equity, social welfare, health, indoor air quality, comfort, etc—the importance of a zero energy building sector is clear. However, there is a great urgency. Every building that is built or retrofitted to a less ambitious target locks us into a warmer future.”

Energy use related to building (both in operation and construction materials) is still increasing, primarily due to increasing floor area per person. To achieve something close to the energy reductions required, a drastic reduction of energy consumption and deep energy retrofits is needed.

The abstract is below, but the full paper is available to read online and I recommend you do.

Abstract: In order to redefine the influence of the energy and technological transitions upon the challenge of climate change this paper shows that buildings are key agents. This paper discusses the importance of addressing building energy efficiency in a holistic and transformational way, to avoid that incremental measures increase the lock-in effect. Moreover, policies should consider a demand-side energy transition, contrary to today’s discourse, where the supply side and energy production are prominent. Finally, the most important issues in this energy transition are intergenerational divide and justice.

—Luisa F. Cabeza, Diana Ürge-Vorsatz. “The role of buildings in the energy transition in the context of the climate change challenge”. Global Transitions, Volume 2, 2020. Pages 257-260. ISSN 2589-7918.

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