Global building sector seeing a ‘major missed opportunity’ for energy savings

General lack of impetus and policy to drive energy efficiency investments, says IEA

The world is adding the equivalent of one Empire State Building every 25 minutes in floor space.

But when it comes to energy savings measures, that elevator in the building sector doesn’t go anywhere near the top, apparently.

While the building sector is a massive draw on the world’s energy production—it represents about 30% of global final energy use—the sector continues to lag with a “major missed opportunity” for energy savings, says International Energy Agency (IEA) energy analyst John Dulac.

“Unfortunately, there is a lack of policy to drive . . . energy efficiency investments. Nearly 70% of final energy use in buildings globally is not covered by mandatory codes and standards, and currently two-thirds of countries still do not have comprehensive building energy codes to cover new buildings construction,” writes Dulac.

Examples of energy efficiency investments in the building sector include:

  • Construction of high-performance buildings
  • Deep energy renovations of existing buildings
  • High-performance heating and cooling technologies

A shift to those ultra-efficient heating and cooling systems, says Dulac, could see energy savings through 2060 that equal the amount of energy consumed by China over the past decade.

In recent months, the IEA released a Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GABC) 2017 Global Status Report, examining the state of the sector since the Paris Agreement at COP21.

“High-performance, low-carbon and cost-effective investments in buildings are indeed possible, but ambitious action is needed without delay to avoid locking in long-lived and inefficient building assets for decades to come,” says Dulac.

“There are many examples in the energy sector that show how an enabling environment with the right price signals can result in massive change—from the shale boom in the United States to the solar PV revolution around the world. The same can—and should—happen in buildings.”

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