What is Building Decarbonization? Ava Montini June 30, 2023

What is Building Decarbonization?

Energy demand from buildings and building construction continues to rise, driven by improved access to energy in developing countries, growing demand for air conditioning in tropical countries, greater ownership and use of energy-consuming appliances, and rapid growth in global building floor area. Decarbonizing buildings can lead to numerous benefits, including reduced carbon emissions, cost savings, and improved indoor air quality and occupant health. In this blog, we will explore what building decarbonization is, the importance of this term, its benefits, and the available resources to support decarbonization efforts.

What is Decarbonization?

Building decarbonization is the process of reducing or eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change from a building’s energy sources. The buildings and buildings construction sectors combined are responsible for 30% of total global final energy consumption and 27% of total energy sector emissions. These emissions come from various sources within buildings, such as heating, cooling, lighting, and appliances.

Decarbonizing buildings involves shifting away from fossil fuel-based energy sources towards cleaner and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal. It also improves buildings’ energy efficiency to require less energy to operate. Energy-efficient buildings can be achieved through improvements in building envelope insulation, efficient heating and cooling systems, lighting upgrades, and other measures. 

Building decarbonization is a critical strategy for reducing carbon emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change. As the global population continues to grow and urbanize, the number of buildings will also increase, making building decarbonization an increasingly important area of focus.

One of the key drivers of building decarbonization is the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet global climate targets. Buildings account for a significant portion of these emissions, and decarbonizing buildings is essential to achieving a sustainable, low-carbon future. Building decarbonization can also improve the quality of life for building occupants by creating healthier, more comfortable living and working spaces.

Building Emissions

There are two main types of building emissions; 

Operational carbon is the amount of carbon emitted during the operation of a building.  This includes both energy and water-related emissions during the use of the building. 

Embodied carbon is the amount of carbon emitted from the extraction of raw materials for the building to the building’s end of life, including refrigerant emissions.  It is everything in the life of the building that is not covered by operational carbon.

Benefits of Building Decarbonization 

Reducing Carbon Emissions 

Buildings are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately 40% of global carbon emissions. Building decarbonization can significantly reduce these emissions, helping mitigate climate change’s impacts. By implementing energy-efficient building designs and technologies, such as passive solar heating, green roofs, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances, buildings can reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Cost Savings

Building decarbonization can also provide significant economic benefits. For example, implementing energy-efficient technologies and designs can reduce energy bills and operating costs for building owners and occupants. Building decarbonization can also create new job opportunities in industries such as renewable energy and energy-efficient building design and construction.

Health Benefits 

Building decarbonization can also positively impact indoor air quality and occupant health. Building decarbonization can improve air quality and reduce exposure to pollutants by reducing energy consumption and promoting natural ventilation and daylighting. This can improve building occupants’ health outcomes, such as reduced asthma and allergy symptoms.

Decarbonization Resources