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Buildings and Climate Change

Updated: Apr 22

According to the United Nations Environment Program, buildings and construction account for 36 percent of global energy consumption and 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions annually. Globally, building operations (powering, lighting, heating, and cooling) account for about 28 percent of emissions annually.

According to Ksenia Petrichenko, the main characteristics of buildings are high energy consumption, reliance on fossil fuels, and high energy costs.

In Europe, 90 percent of the existing buildings will still be used by 2050. The global population is increasing, and the global floor area is expected to increase by 75 percent by mid-century. If energy consumption continues at current rates, achieving Paris Agreement goals will be impossible.

In a previous post, we suggested some ideas about ways to diminish GHG emissions from buildings and constructions. These solutions could reduce direct emissions from buildings by more than 95 percent by 2050.

According to Ksenia Petrichenko, to achieve Paris Goals' improvements are required in energy efficiency, electrification, and decarbonization. If we are to achieve the Paris Goals, buildings need to play an active role in the energy system.

Energy efficiency in buildings

Energy efficiency is primordial and requires two types of changes:

  1. Improving the energy efficiency of the building envelope: better materials, designs, insulation of walls, roofs, basements, energy-efficient windows, etc.

  2. Improving the energy efficiency of all appliances and equipment used in buildings: heating, cooling, lighting, etc.

Improving buildings' energy efficiency could start with the government mandating minimum energy efficiency requirements. For example, Qatar's government reduced electricity consumption by 25 percent by setting minimum standards for air conditioning equipment. The role of the government as a catalyzer for energy efficiency is to act as a regulator, put the right incentives in place, provide information, and enforce regulations.

As consumers, we, too, have an essential role in influencing the type of buildings offered in the market. We can use our purchasing power to select more energy-efficient buildings, such as those with efficient insulation, modern windows, and efficient lighting and heating systems. We can also choose more sustainable materials, such as recycled materials or those made with renewable energy. By making these choices, we can significantly impact the energy efficiency of buildings and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By making the right choices regarding the materials and features of buildings, consumers can significantly reduce their energy consumption and CO2 emissions. This translates into significant energy savings, lower energy bills, and improved comfort, productivity, and health. Additionally, consumers can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing more energy-efficient buildings and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Electrification of Buildings

We need to invest in renewable energy to electrify buildings. This will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and foster the volumes of electricity used for building electrification sourced from renewable sources. Furthermore, investing in energy storage technologies and smart grids will help to ensure that the electricity used for building electrification is reliable and available when needed.

We should stop looking at buildings as passive structures and start considering them as active players in the energy system. Buildings that can consume and produce energy efficiently. We should maximize the efforts to enable market participation of buildings as active energy consumers; allowing them to participate in the energy market will result in more flexibility and more efficient use of energy resources. We should not only equip buildings with efficient low-carbon technologies: solar panels, photovoltaic windows, heat pumps, and energy storage; we should also promote using "smart" digital tools and building load management.

As the grid becomes smarter, so need the buildings. Grid electricity load management for buildings involves utilizing technologies and strategies to reduce or shift electricity usage in response to signals from the grid operator. This can involve the use of energy storage, smart meters, energy management systems, and other grid-connected technologies. Additionally, demand response programs can incentivize consumers to reduce their electricity usage during peak demand times, usually by offering lower prices or other incentives. For example, a utility may offer lower rates during periods of peak demand or provide customers with a financial incentive to reduce usage during these times. This can help reduce strain on the grid and ensure a reliable electricity supply.


Some noteworthy startups in this space:

Blip Energy is a startup that provides home energy monitoring and management solutions.

BlocPower is an energy technology startup developing healthier, greener, smarter buildings. It leverages advanced technologies, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy systems, and energy storage, to help reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Caldera is a clean energy startup developing advanced materials for efficient energy storage and conversion.

Flume a smarter way to track and reduce your water use is building the future of smart energy grids with an electricity load-balancing service focused on buildings.


If you want to plant trees or learn more about how we do it. See our projects

In order to play their role in the #netzero transition #buildings need to transform from being passive energy consumers into efficient and active players in the energy system.

Ksenia Petrichenko

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