Energy self-sufficient buildings a reality

Wednesday, 26 April, 2006

An alliance of global companies has announced that energy self-sufficient buildings are a reality. The buildings will be designed and constructed so that they will use no energy from external power grids, are carbon neutral, and can be built and operated at fair market values.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has coupled with United Technologies and Lafarge Group for this project. The WBCSD and the two companies are in discussions with other global companies that are expected to join the project.

Buildings today account for 40% of energy consumption in developed countries according to the OECD. By 2050 the alliance hopes to achieve a target that new buildings will consume zero net energy from external power supplies and produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions while being economically viable to construct and operate.

Constructing buildings that use no net energy from power grids will require a combination of onsite power generation and ultra-efficient building materials and equipment.

The project will consist of three phases, each producing a report:

  • the first report will document existing green building successes and setbacks;
  • the second will identify the full range of present and future opportunities;
  • the third will present an industry strategy for realising those opportunities by 2050.

Each report will take one year to complete and involve hearings and conferences with building contractors and suppliers, sustainability experts, government representatives, regulators, utility officials and others.

Energy self-sufficient buildings already exist in various parts of the world but current cost structure prevents widespread adoption by general contractors.

The project will build on these examples, aligning costs and benefits in the building equation and by working in close collaboration with architects, builders, suppliers and building owners to promote a more sustainable approach to construction. Existing standards for energy efficiency in buildings will be the starting point for the industry-led alliance.

"Buildings of tomorrow should be self-sufficient in energy and have carbon neutral emissions," said Jan van Dokkum, president of UTC Power, a United Technologies company.

"This can be done by incorporating renewable energy sources into a building's design, optimising energy efficiency of support systems, and taking advantage of geographic and culturally acceptable building practices. Additionally, this aim is enhanced by using the 'cradle to cradle' concept of producing, using and later re-using building materials. This vision of energy and carbon neutral designs is a necessary evolution we need to embrace to achieve sustainability for buildings."

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, based in Geneva, brings together some 180 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress.

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