At the beginning of the year, when we wrote that energy efficiency would come into greater focus, we didn't know the World Business Council for Sustainable Development ("WBCSD") was going to say "energy efficiency is fast becoming one of the defining issues of our time."  But this is the message in a new report published by the WBCSD.  They invested four years and $15 million in what's being called the most rigorous study on energy efficiency in buildings ever conducted.  According to the report, energy use in buildings can be cut by 60% by 2050, but action is necessary soon.  Let's take a closer look …

Background Details:
The project focused on six markets — Brazil, China, Europe, India, Japan, and United States — which taken together consume roughly two-thirds of the global energy output.  Researchers next took an inventory of the current and future building stock.  Using this inventory, they modeled the impact of various inputs, such as consumer preferences and behaviors, designs and technologies, and policies on energy consumption.  This analysis yielded six principle recommendations or measures to meet the stated energy efficiency goal. 

Six Principle Recommendations:
WBCSD created a roadmap to guide various stakeholders towards greater building efficiency.  The roadmap speaks to government authorities, developers, investors, utilities, suppliers, architects, and occupants.  Each stakeholder can do something concrete and specific in the short-term, mid-term, and by 2050 to reach the stated goal of cutting energy use by 60% by 2050.  Here are six principle recommendations recommended by this new report:

  1. Strengthen building codes and energy labeling;
  2. Use subsidies and price signals to incentivize efficiency investments;
  3. Encourage integrated design approaches and innovations;
  4. Develop and use advanced technology to enable energy-efficient behavior;
  5. Develop workforce capacity for energy saving; and
  6. Mobilize for an energy-aware culture. 

You'll note the reference to energy labeling.  We've long been in favor of environmental impact labels (similar to the ones already used in the UK).  Also, these recommendations hit on common wisdom that holistic design plays an enormous role in energy efficiency.  Without design, you end up spending a ton of money on technology and hardly get to where you need to go. 

The Costs and Benefits:
The report tells us that the real cost of transforming the building sector will be substantial; however, the costs of inaction are greater and represent an enormous risk to businesses and market stability.  Indeed, these costs will be shared among stakeholders, but everyone will also benefit.  Businesses will create new markets and work in better buildings.  Homeowners will have better homes with lower energy costs.  The government will protect the environment, improve energy security, and stimulate economies.

[=] Transforming the Market [pdf] by WBCSD
[=] Energy Efficient Buildings Roadmap [pdf] by WBCSD