Urban buildings

Urban buildings

Are our buildings shaping us negatively by contributing to global warming

"We shape our buildings, thereafter, they shape us" Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)

Buildings and greenhouse gases

  • Buildings contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which give rise to global warming. According to the Stern Review (2006), buildings account for almost 14% of carbon emissions in the UK alone. Non-domestic buildings are estimated to account for approximately half of this.

  • In the lifetime of an average building most energy is consumed not for construction, but during the period when the building is in use.

  • The absence of building codes/sustainability ratings or the slow pace in implementing them in some countries, has led to the construction of many energy-inefficient buildings that silently pollute the environment with carbon.

  • Business-as-usual paths of emissions point to irreversible impacts of global warming, which do not respect national/geographical boundaries.

The need for different solutions

Despite the global impacts of global warming, it is not feasible to have a one-size-fits-all building solution to combat this menace or its effects, for the following reasons:

  • Differences in availability of sustainable energy sources

  • Climatic/geographical differences

  • Differences in accessibility to efficient and clean technologies

  • Differences in cultures, development paradigms and levels of industrialisation

  • Differences in land tenure and land use systems

  • Differences in regulations/legislations


Building solutions to climate change, innovative policy solutions to global climate change (November 2006)
Stern Review (2006)

Develop a vision for buildings which spans a wide range of technologies and purposes

The future of the building sector...

The right mix of appropriate government regulation, greater use of energy saving technologies and behavioural change can substantially reduce carbon emissions from the building sector.

To achieve this goal:
  • Governments should promote and implement the green building agenda as much as possible
  • Building regulations should encourage the adoption of appropriate technologies with low carbon emission features, to replace polluting ones
  • Building owners should be incentivised to renovate existing buildings consistent with the requirements of the national/local sustainable rating system
  • Governments should develop/adapt/adopt appropriate sustainability rating systems for the building sector along the lines of such as LEED (USA), BREEAM or CEEQUAL (UK), Estidama (Abu Dhabi)

Source: The Natural Edge Project (2007)