Study finds professionals misjudging sustainable budgets and underestimating carbon footprint of buildings

Construction and property professionals are overestimating green construction costs by 300%, a new survey has found.

Respondents to a global survey believed there was a cost premium of 17% to construct sustainable buildings, compared to “the true cost of difference of about 5%”.

The study by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) also found that the 1,400 respondents put greenhouse emissions of buildings at 19% of the world total, while the actual number is 40%.

The findings are in a new report called Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities which summarizes the first phase of the WBCSD's project. The project is led by industry firms Lafarge and United Technologies Corporation.

United Technologies Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive George David said the industry needed to build differently to decrease energy demands,.

"Existing technologies combined with common sense design can increase energy efficiency by 35 percent and reduce heating costs by 80 percent for the average building in industrialized markets," he said.

"Life cycle analysis shows that 80% to 85% of the total energy consumption and CO 2 emissions of a building comes from occupancy through heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water use. If we want to make an impact on climate change, we therefore need to tackle this challenge. Combining the right materials when designing a building envelope can greatly reduce a building's energy requirements, increase its life span and ensure consistent performance over time," he said.

The study also found that fewer than one in seven industry respondents has participated directly in a green building project. Involvement ranges from a high of 45 percent in Germany to just 5 percent in India. About 20 percent of architects, engineers and developers have been involved in green building projects, compared to just 9 percent of owners and tenants.

Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said: "In order to achieve a step change in energy efficiency in buildings, there is a need for strongly supportive policies and regulatory frameworks. Governments and local authorities need to develop sound policies," said

The WBCSD's Energy Efficiency in Buildings Project is a three year initiative to assess the environmental impacts of buildings and develop means to achieve zero net energy use for residential and commercial buildings.