Retrofits the Key to Green Building Growth

There is more to clean energy than electric cars and solar panels. The need to reduce emissions from buildings, for example, has been well established. What is not so certain is how to accomplish this.

One organization has the answer. According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, the key to reducing the carbon footprint of buildings is through retrofits. The retrofit market, the report argues, has the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of jobs as well as eliminate massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, “A Profitable and Resource Efficient Future: Catalysing Retrofit Finance and Investing in Commercial Real Estate,” notes that buildings use 40 percent of the energy and emit 40 percent of the greenhouse gases worldwide. It stands to reason then that any strategy to address global warming must include the world’s building supply.

Furthermore, the report emphasizes that 50 percent of the world’s existing building supply will still be in use in the year 2050. That is where retrofits come in.

While the need and potential benefits are clear, the free markets will not respond without a nudge. The report argues that government holds the power as “the single greatest catalyst to spark demand” for building owners, businesses and investors.

It recommends that government take several steps, including the establishment of a centralized database, mandatory disclosure of utility consumption and a standard asset efficiency rating system.

The report also recommends that government establish industry-specific targets, help set up financing resources, offer tax incentives for retrofits and help create tradeable asset efficiency certificates.

With these and other programs in place, the retrofit market can achieve its full potential. The report argues that energy-efficiency measures in the United States could create nearly 1 million jobs and eliminate more than 300 million tons of gas emissions. Nearly 90 percent of this potential rests in the building retrofit market.

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