With the built environment responsible for 38% of global emissions, the April issue of Ethical Corporation looks at the companies and cities that are leading efforts to turn down the heat

Things are looking up in the magazine this month as we examine how companies are reducing CO2 emissions in the built environment. As Mark Hillsdon reports, buildings are one of the biggest contributors to climate change, accounting for 36% of energy use globally. And despite improvements in building technologies, energy use continues to grow, with sharply rising use of air conditioners, and an area of floor space the size of Paris constructed every week, according to the International Energy Agency.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, launched last year at the Global Climate Action Summit in California, is seeking to bend the curve on this trajectory by challenging companies, cities, states and regions to reach net zero operating emissions in their portfolios by 2030.

According to the World Green Building Council, energy demand in buildings could be reduced by one-third by 2050 globally if energy efficiency technologies available today, such as LED lighting and improved insulation, were implemented on a large scale. But there are formidable barriers, particularly when it comes to retrofitting older homes and offices.

In his second feature, Hillsdon talks to leading experts to find out how cities from Bogota to Mexico City are leading the way in their own properties, and innovative green mortgage schemes in Europe, where 97% of buildings will need to be significantly upgraded to meet the EU's 2050 vision of decarbonisation.

I look behind the glass and steel façade of Salesforce’s striking new tower, which dominates the San Francisco skyline, to find out about the blackwater recycling system that has cut the building’s freshwater demand by 76%.

Across the Pacific Ocean, Jill Baker reports on how Singapore is Asia’s green building champion as the property sector in the region, home to 60% of the world’s population, starts to get to grips with its growing carbon footprint.

(Credit: Luciano Mortula/Shutterstock)

Over the last 20 years, the building sector has focused on emissions generated during the operational phase. Far less attention has been paid to embodied carbon, created during the building’s construction and effectively locked in as soon as materials like concrete and glass are created. Mark Hillsdon reports on moves within construction to switch to greener materials.

Almost 100 companies from the buildings sector have signed up to the Science Based Targets initiative, including Landsec and Saint-Gobain, but the industry is highly fragmented and the value chain is long, including investors, architects, materials suppliers, construction companies, property developers and tenants.

Mike Scott examines how the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is developing a systems-level approach that will allow all the disparate actors to work together to cut building emissions.

He also looks at Bioregional’s One Planet Living framework, which is helping developers create homes and businesses that are not only low-impact and sustainable, but improve the wellbeing of their occupants.

Meanwhile, Angeli Mehta talks to London’s deputy mayor Shirley Rodrigues about how 11 companies, including Landsec, Siemens, Tesco, Sky and Morgan Sindall, are working with the capital to deliver its zero-carbon push. The companies have committed to 100% renewable energy and zero-carbon buildings by 2050, among other goals.

We hope you enjoy this month’s issue. Next month we feature a full-issue exploration of cutting-edge innovation in the circular economy.

Main picture credit: Landsec
Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment  WorldGBC  Singapore  Salesforce  embodied carbon  energy efficiency  Science Based Targets Initiative 

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