The fact that change is not beyond us is positive news and should increase our resolve to limit global warming, but our society faces an immense test
The goals set out in the Paris climate agreement are achievable according to a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience in September. The fact that change is not beyond us is positive news and should increase our resolve to limit global warming. But our society faces an immense test. We have a planet which is heating up and a growing global population, which needs ever more resources. These two mega-trends combine to present humanity with a stark challenge.
To meet the challenge, we need to foster new models of low carbon growth. Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit and simply doubling the annual rate of improvement in energy efficiency to 3% per year would deliver two-thirds of what needs to be done to meet the bold commitments agreed at COP 21 in Paris.
There is a huge part to be played by building owners as faster renovation of existing infrastructure is long overdue.
The renovation rate for buildings currently stands at about 1.2%, well below what is required. Increased renovation, lifting the rate in developed countries to around 3% per year is crucial for success.
The financial rewards are significant too. Recent analysis conducted by Philips Lighting for World Green Building Week suggests that businesses around the globe could realize savings of up to $1.5 trillion in reduced rental costs alone if their office buildings were refurbished to the current highest standards of efficiency. And this is merely a fraction of the financial savings that can be made by using smart technology in buildings.
The renovation rate for buildings currently stands at about 1.2%, well below what is required
New policies need to be implemented to effect change, new building codes and performance based procurement are required, and so too are fiscal measures. Policy frameworks need to change to focus on connected technologies for smart buildings and cities instead of individual product performance. Changing financing mechanisms so that future savings and benefits are used to mitigate the initial investment and renovation budget hurdles would also have a great impact.
Intriguingly, the solution to double building renovation rates without creating nuisance for its occupants may have already been found. Research by Architecture2030 has shown that if the moment of ownership and/or tenancy change of residential, commercial and public buildings would be used for a deep renovation, this would be sufficient to double the renovation rate to 3% per year. The renovation budget can be included in the mortgage, which will be attractive to all stakeholders.
But organisations can’t just sit and wait. All those involved in commercial property, including building developers, landlords and occupants, need to increasingly view sustainability, not as an acceptable sacrifice, but as the most attractive route to generating financial, environmental and social benefits.
The commitments of the Paris climate agreement are achievable and organisations could achieve so much more for themselves, their employees and the societies they operate in, simply by embracing the benefits of smart technology and energy efficiency. Improving the rate at which they renovate their buildings would be a highly effective point to switch gears and accelerate the rate of change.