From the World Green Building Council – 20 September 2010 – According to the United  Nations Environment Programme, buildings consume between 30-40 per centof global energy. There is no single larger global contributor –and thereby potential reducer –of carbon than the building sector.

Green buildings can also play an important role in providing affordable housing, job creation and disaster recovery, according to a new report from the World Green Building Council  launched today at the start of World Green Building Week. The building sector directly employs 5-10 per cent of the workforce in most countries.

Tackling Global Climate Change, Meeting Local Priorities highlights how green buildings can play a valuable role in meeting local needs worldwide, including in areas hit by natural disasters, as well as providing the most cost-effective way of tackling climate change.

“In the past some thought we could only address environmental concerns when the going was good and that ‘green’ had to take a back seat to economic growth when times got challenging,” notes Jane Henley, chief executive officer of the WorldGBC.

“This report shows that to be a false choice. We have a growing evidence base of international examples in which homes, buildings and communities are addressing pressing local needs and reducing carbon emissions at the same time.”

Green buildings can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 35 per cent –and in some cases can be carbon neutral.

They can also reduce waste output by 70 per cent, water usage by 40 per cent, and energy usage between 30-50% –in some cases producing energy that can be sent back to the grid.

“Buildings are simply the most cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions and policy- makers around the world must recognise this at the upcoming international negotiations at

COP16 in Mexico,” Jane Henley says.

Tony Arnel, Chairman of both the WorldGBC and the Green Building Council of Australia says: “This report provides a timely message of what proactive government and private sector initiatives can do to harness the potential of green buildings to deliver important social, economic and environmental benefits for people around the world.”

Romilly Madew, Chief Executive of the GBCA says: “While the local challenges facing countries around the world may vary, the global importance of the built environment cannot be understated.  As we work together to radically reduce our carbon emissions, we can’t miss thewin-win opportunities to addressboth global climate change and the local issues preventing communities from enjoying a high quality of life.”

The report, which includes a foreword from WorldGBC Chairman Tony Arnel and a testimonial by UN Environment Programme Director Achim Steiner brings together case studies from across four world regions, and provides evidence of how green buildings have been used effectively to meet local needs, while cutting carbon,including:

Disaster recovery:

Natural hazards vary globally and some may be exacerbated as a result of climate change. Their impact also varies, often depending on the ability and resilience of the built environment and communities to deal with that hazard. The recovery effort following disaster is a crucial time. It is an opportunity for communities to be at the heart of planning, creating homes and buildings that meet social and economic needs, enhance quality of life and also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report shows how green building councils have worked with local NGOs to do just this, for example in Australia through the “Build it Back Green” program following wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes andkilled over 100 people in Victoria; and in the USA where, after Hurricane Katrina, the USGBC brought local communities together with experts in urban planning, waste and water management, engineering and architecture to play an active part in lower carbonreconstruction after the floods.

Job creation and local economy:

The financial crisis and ensuing recession has made job and wealth creation the number one priority in many places around the world. The crisis has hit some countries harder than others andcountries have responded in different ways to the challenge. But a common theme is the extent to which construction and refurbishment of existing buildings has been recognised as an important way of stimulating local economies.

South Africa is using the Kyoto Protocol’s “Clean Development Mechanism”, in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, to retrofit 2300 homes in an established low-income housing area. Energy efficiency measures include insulated ceilings, energy-efficient light bulbs and solar water heaters. Not only does this reduce energy use and carbon, but the revenue from the CDM is used to fund a trust to employ and train local residents.

In BogotáColombia, one of the largest residential projects in the country, Green City, is a mixed-use project that supports the generation of economic activities and jobs for residents and surrounding areas. In the first stage the investment in infrastructure will rise to USD$30.2 million, create 21,000 direct and indirect jobs, and offer public facilities for the community.

Affordable housing and fuel poverty:

In both developed and developing countries, there is often a shortage of affordable, secure and healthy homes, particularly for low income or vulnerable people. Developing new or refurbished greener homes can offer benefits to both residents and the environment.

In Egypt, the GBC has been involved in the design and planning of the country’s first eco- village which will be located South of Cairo. This initiative is motivated by Egypt’s critical situation with its homeless population. The eco-village is expected to deliver to its community members guaranteed health care, basic education, religious guidance, effective social assimilation, work training and skill development. In return the community will produce food, energy and engage in numerous cooperative enterprises.

In Europe, the “Pay As You Save” idea is rising up on the agenda. The UK Green Building Council has campaigned for the introduction of an innovative financial mechanism that allows homeowners or landlords to access finance to improve the energy efficiency of a property, with the capital repaid over a long period of time from the savings on energy bills.

The greatly reduced energy bills mean the resident is better off from immediately, despite having to repay the initial cost of the refurbishment.

The UK government will introduce legislation to enable this policy in November 2010.

Similarly, the Romanian GBC is working with several banks to develop new financial products that could boost the retrofitting of green buildings in Romania along similar lines.

However, the situation is particularly acute in Romania, where subsidies for energy have been removed after many years, leaving a huge number of vulnerable families in poor quality housing exposed to high energy prices this winter.

The full report is available for download from the WorldGBC website: www.worldgbc.org

About World Green Building Week.

World GBC and its member green building councils celebrated the inaugural World Green Building Day on September 23 2009 to raise the profile of green buildings globally in the lead up to COP15 in Copenhagen.  This year’s World Green Building Week will be celebrated through a number of key activities including the launch of the WorldGBC Special Report ‘Tackling Global Climate Change –Meeting Local Priorities’ and a host of synchronised green building events around the world.

Green building councils in over 18 countries around the world will be hosting an event in or around thisweek, including the Green Building Council of Australia’s “Green Tie” Gala Dinner on 22 September.  The GBCA is also encouraging members to host their own events –from site tours and debates through to green treasure hunts. For more information on the range of activities: www.gbca.org.au/world-green-building-week-2010.asp