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Better building design is “low-hanging fruit” for green action, says report

A report by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) represents a major push for the green b...


A report by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) represents a major push for the green building movement.
The report, “Green Building in North America: Opportunities and Challenges,” is the result of a two-year study by the CEC Secretariat. It points out: “Improving our built environment is probably the single greatest opportunity to protect and enhance the natural environment. This report is a blueprint for dramatic environmental progress throughout North America.” The CEC’s executive director Adrian Vazquez, adds, “Green building represents some of the ripest ‘low-hanging fruit’ for achieving significant reductions in climate change emissions.”
North America’s buildings cause the annual release of 35% of the greenhouse gases of the continent, said the report. If developers and designers were to take advantage of new and emerging-energy saving technologies, the report’s authors estimate that by 2030 the annual reduction in C02 emissions would be around 1,700 megatons. “A cut of that size would nearly equal the C02 emitted by the entire US transportation sector in 2000,” says the CEC.
But first major improvements need to take place in how the building and development industry operates, notes the report. Presently, only two per cent of the non-residential building market in the U.S. and Canada is done based on green building principles. (On a more local level, a report in the Toronto Star newspaper recently estimated that only 10-15% of the condominiums under construction or planned in the Greater Toronto Area exceed the National Building Code of Canada energy standards.)
For green building to succeed, it has to overcome a number of disincentives, says the report. For example, condominium developers must be encouraged to install green building technologies, even though they don’t benefit from the energy savings, since those are passed on to the condo unit owners and tenants.
The CEC report recommends that governments and industry leaders set clear targets for adopting green building in North America, including setting targets for “zero energy” and carbon neutral buildings.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation was established by Canada, Mexico and the U.S. It addresses the environmental challenges and opportunities of the NAFTA free trade agreement.