The construction sector needs a “dramatic” shift towards a zero-carbon built environment to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, according to new research from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC).

Only 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2000 ‘net-zero’ homes currently exist around the world, the study found. WorldGBC are calling for a “monumental and coordinated” effort from business and governments to ensure all existing buildings by 2050 operate at net-zero carbon, meaning they generate or supply their energy needs from renewable sources.

“We need nothing short of a dramatic and ambitious transformation from a world of thousands of net-zero buildings, to one of billions if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said WorldGBC chief executive Terri Wills.

“Businesses, governments and NGOs hold the key to this transformation, but they must commit to aggressive action. It is possible to create a world in which every single building produces zero-carbon emissions, but we must start today.”

Net-zero

The building and construction industry, which accounts for around one-third of global emissions, will need to play a crucial role in keeping the global temperature at sustainable levels. These energy consumption levels are set to be exacerbated in the next 35 years, with the global building stock expected to double to 415 billion square metres.

Current renovation rates, meanwhile, amount to less than 1% of the existing building stock each year, and will need to increase by 3% each year to achieve universal net-zero carbon status by 2050, the report finds.

The WorldGBC stresses that net-zero buildings can generate new jobs, improve energy security and create future-proofing of investment for companies. It calls on the business community to invest only in projects that will achieve net-zero status before 2050, disclose carbon emissions for all assets before 2030 and certify all assets as net-zero carbon by 2050.

Governments are urged to develop national regulations for new and existing buildings, while NGOs are called on to establish certification programmes for net-zero carbon buildings for leading businesses to adopt.

Green building

Calls for the building sector to show an ehnanced commitment to sustainability are already being heeded in some sections of the industry. UK construction firm Carillion last month revealed it is “working hard” to set science-based targets for their sustainability programme, after the firm’s latest sustainability reportrevealed that a carbon reduction target has been surpassed five years ahead of schedule.

And British construction contractor Balfour Beatty recently became the first company globally to be assessed to the ISO 20400 standard for sustainable procurement, which was formally published in April.

In a recent interview with edie, the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) chief executive Mahesh Ramanujam said that the ongoing expansion of LEED certification opportunities in Europe can enable businesses to become leaders in the built environment.

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