WEF Framework Attempts to Remove Obstacles in Achieving Net Zero Buildings

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Jan 31, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

(Credit: Pixabay)

Addressing the significant impact buildings have on the world’s emissions, the World Economic Forum released a framework with ideas to move toward net zero targets including investing in digital, smart, and distributed renewable energy technologies.

According to the WEF, financial barriers exist in making such improvements, and the organization hopes its Net-Zero Carbon Cities Building Value Framework will help break down those hurdles. The framework is designed to create a standard approach to decision making across sectors that recognizes the importance of environmental and systemic outcomes and speed, and advances investment in improving buildings.

The framework, which is part of the WEF’s Net Zero Carbon Cities initiative, has been developed and validated through case studies to understand investment decisions and evaluate outcomes in real projects.

It developed three insights from this process, including: investing in decarbonization technologies; investing in digital technologies and combining that with decarbonization efforts; and investing in city ecosystem services and equipping buildings with distributed renewable energy generation.

The framework is flexible and encourages retrofitting existing buildings, in addition to new construction, with emissions reducing procedures. That is important because according to the WEF, 80% of the buildings that will be around in 2050 exist today.

The WEF says less than 1% of the world’s buildings are currently net zero, and buildings create nearly 40% of the world’s emissions. Nearly three-quarters of buildings emissions are through its operations, such as with heating and cooling, lighting and IT servers.

Still, the obstacles to make improvements include a reluctance to make financial commitments due to initial costs and slow or no returns. A World Green Building Council recent survey shows nearly 53% of respondents cite upfront costs as the biggest barrier to investing in emissions targets. That is despite new sustainable buildings representing a $24.7 trillion investment opportunity in emerging markets through 2030, according to the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures.

In terms of investment in decarbonization activities, the WEF says a focus should be on distributed renewable electricity and storage. It says these have a greater overall impact on emissions reductions when implemented together.

Buildings that are able to operationalize data and have smart systems, such as the use of artificial intelligence, to monitor energy use and emissions will be more future proof, according to the organization. These systems allow enhanced decision making and automatic controls that can show the impact of building emissions and needed maintenance or interventions.

The WEF says the use of digital twins can improve modeling and efficiency of buildings during construction, operation and with maintenance. Las Vegas is an example of one city using the technology to improve its building emissions.

All of this leads to the need of a city ecosystem that brings changes to an entire urban set-up. Buildings with distributed renewable energy generation, storage and smart management systems can accelerate decarbonization citywide because they do not require disruptive grid upgrades. The WEF also recently released a toolbox to help growing urban areas tackle emissions.

The WEF also says other tools like smart charging for electric vehicles in conjunction with buildings can provide grid services. A recent report by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council highlighted the potential for such distributed energy.

More than 40 experts from industries and organizations in finance, technology, city governments and real estate supported the creation of the framework. The WEF says the tool is intended to evolve and be updated as needed.

“Our experience working on this study and others with the World Economic Forum, including on industrial clusters and system value, makes it clear that improving systemic efficiency and energy productivity is critical to reaching our climate targets,” says Melissa Stark, who leads Accenture’s renewable energy practice. “One of the most efficient ways to tackle cleaner emissions in cities is through greater collaboration, and in this case, better designed buildings.” Accenture collaborated with WEF on the framework.

Additional articles you will be interested in.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Share This