The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) is a global action network working on assisting and catalysing sustainable built environments around the world. The council brings together over 37,000 organizations, represented by over 70 Green Building Councils from various countries. Their major emphasis has been on transforming three strategic aspects of sustainability – climate action, health & wellbeing, and resources & circularity. This year, the WorldGBC celebrates 20 years of greening the planet, hosting a leadership summit in the sustainable built environment on the 28th of June in London.
Mr. Matthew Black, a Project Coordinator at the WorldGBC, attended The Décor Journal India’s Green Building Summit 2022 on the 13th of May, to present a case study on ‘Advancing Net-Zero Whole Life Carbon Emissions’ in building construction worldwide.
What does ‘Advancing Net-Zero Whole Life Carbon Emissions’ mean?
‘Advancing Net-zero’ is WorldGBC’s global campaign to accelerate the uptake of net-zero carbon buildings to 100% by 2050. The campaign mainly aims at increasing awareness and education about the urgency and achievability of net-zero carbon buildings on a global scale. It also aims to ensure that the approaches of various Green Building Councils are aligned with the public policies and certification schemes of their respective countries. The council hopes this campaign would expedite investments in the global markets, by sharing leadership examples of what is achievable and how companies and organisations can collaborate to reach net-zero.
A net-zero whole life carbon approach emphasizes on ensuring net-zero carbon emissions throughout the life of a building including the construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition phases. The golden rule for achieving this is to ensure that the buildings are designed to be as energy-efficient as possible. This being done, the remaining energy needs must be met by renewable sources either on-site or off-site.
For existing buildings, it is advised to try implementing energy-saving technologies, renovate them using low-carbon materials, and opt for adaptive reuse over new construction.
Working on achieving UN Sustainability Goals, the WorldGBC encourages companies and industries to join the campaign by ensuring a net-zero approach from their end through setting limits, budgets, and policies based on practical usage v/s impact data.
Why do we need this now?
Mr. Black, in his presentation, stated some alarming predictions on global sustainable development for the middle of this century. According to his report, the urban built environment causes 75% of global emissions of greenhouse gases, annually, of which 37% are caused solely by buildings.
This is the case today and it is only expected to rise in the years to come. Almost half of the material resources in the world are being used in the construction industry for housing and infrastructure development, which too is bound to increase exponentially by 2050. The urban population density is expected to reach 70% by 2050, contributing to these changes.
The WorldGBC, therefore, sees this as the best time to start investing in sustainable built environments, to ensure we save the planet before it’s too late. In an attempt to emphasize this, the council lists out seven valuable co-benefits of investing in a sustainable built environment. These include a wider role of businesses in the environmental and social sector, the provision of financial aid and investment protection policies in the sustainable building industry, the rise in asset values, legislative changes that mitigate risk factors in the industry at a global level, decreasing operating costs, and the addition of occupant benefits like productivity and wellbeing.
Can we practically achieve net-zero?
Mr. Black listed out a few examples of net-zero buildings in his presentation, to reassure us that it is quite possible to build and develop projects today, that are fully sustainable. Stating the National University of Singapore as an example, he said that one of the most important aspects of achieving net-zero energy consumption is to challenge conventional approaches to air conditioning. The Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre in Hyderabad, India is another example of how different passive and active design strategies can be integrated to improve the sustainable performance of a building.
WorldGBC’s Whole Life Carbon Vision for 2050 is to have all buildings be net-zero in operational carbon, of which the new and renovated buildings also be net-zero in embodied carbon.
Where does India stand in this movement?
At present, Green Building Councils from almost 30 countries including India have joined the WorldGBC’s campaign. As part of its drive towards achieving net-zero, India has been encouraging and promoting low-carbon, energy-efficient structures since 2001, through the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) Rating System. The categories, guidelines, and benefits of net-zero buildings have been explained in great detail on the IGBC website.
Starting with the country’s first net-zero building, the Indira Paryavaran Bhavan, constructed in 2014, India now has almost ten buildings under that list. The corporate office buildings of Sterling and Wilson Private Limited and Globicon Terminals in Mumbai, have been cited by the WorldGBC as some of the best examples of sustainable, energy-efficient design in the world. With new policies in sustainable development being implemented, India is definitely looking forward to being a valued contributor to this global campaign.