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Green Construction

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
for Energy Efficiency



Hari Srinivas
Policy Analysis Series E-032. June 2015.


Global warming arises from the release into the atmosphere of gases that absorb the infrared radiation emitted by the earth, thus preventing the escape of the radiation into space. Examples of greenhouse gases (GHGs) include CO2, CH4, NOx and HFCs. The fact is that humans have produced substantial quantities of these greenhouse gases, leading to continuously degrading global environment.

As a result, GHG emissions and energy demand have risen high on the global environmental agenda - given the magnitude of GHG emissions from cities, urban energy efficiency is a significant challenge that requires special consideration. The role of city planners and the construction industry is essential as they create the necessary pre-conditions for energy savings opportunities to be realized.

Implementation of measures that are resource-efficient and mitigate negative environmental impacts are needed in all areas of human activity. The built environment is a clear example of this - buildings have a significant impact on the environment, accounting for one-sixth of the world's freshwater withdrawals, one-quarter of its wood harvest, and two-fifths of its material and energy flows. Structures also impact areas beyond their immediate location, affecting the watersheds, air quality, and transportation patterns of communities.

A deeper understanding of the issues involved is leading to changes in the way the building industry and building owners approach the design, construction, and operation of structures. Incorporation of sustainability principles within such processes is becoming a key goal in not only reducing and preventing negative environmental impacts, but also to implement energy-efficiency in buildings and construction processes. Some important aspects of energy efficient in urban areas include (a) maximizing the energy efficiency of building and infrastructure operations through the use of renewable resources, decentralized co-generation and energy cascading techniques in a manner which optimizes integrated energy flows and minimizes potential global environmental impacts such as GHG emissions, and (b) linking producers and consumers of energy and materials throughout the community, city and surrounding regions to facilitate resource exchanges and recycling networks.

Therefore, the environmental implications of man-made structures - buildings, infrastructure etc. and the urban activities and consumption patterns that go into their design, construction, use, maintenance and demolition, need to be comprehended in greater detail. These issues are indeed the local beginnings of global environmental problems, and have resulted in a rethinking of how we look at cities and urban areas - and of the built environment within these areas.

The increasing focus being placed on incorporating the concept of sustainability within the built environment, particularly on the impact of buildings and the construction process on the environment, has resulted in the development of a series of codes, standards, regulations and decision-support systems. These tools help in working with a range of stakeholders to achieve sustainability in the built environment.

What is missing however is a mechanism to link building and construction processes to the larger global environmental problems through a framework of goals and objectives laid against available codes, standards and regulations. We need greater focus on sustainability and environmental issues in the development of building codes and standards in light of the entire life-cycle of buildings. Built into such initiatives should be a coherent approach for energy-efficiency in the built environment, with the ultimate goal of reducing GHGs.

Adapting appropriate codes, standards and regulations for sustainability in the built environment, particularly in developing countries, requires a methodology for their scaling to different levels of economic development.

Strategy Outputs/Outcomes
1. Create enabling environments for green construction in developing countries
  • Guidelines for Initiating, designing, constructing, maintaining, operating and demolishing buildings in an environmentally sustainable manner and the use of technologies
  • Documentation of appropriate and indigenous building technologies and best practicesIdentification of sustainability indicators for the built environment and the construction industry
  • Databases of technologies for green construction
  • Courses on green construction
2. Stimulate the development and use of appropriate building codes and standards for sustainable building and construction.
  • Recommendations for codes and standards on sustainable design, assessment, management of building and construction
  • Inventory of tools for environmental declaration and labeling of buildings
  • Inventory of tools for assessing energy efficiency of buildings
  • Databases on technologies for green constructione
3. Build required capacity to apply codes and standards among defined - institutional and professional - stakeholders.
  • Sustainable urban planning manual and guidelines
  • Sustainable Planning Code of Practice
  • Case studies and good practices in sustainable planning and building construction
  • Award/Prize on good practices in green construction

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Contact: Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org