Construction firms push for affordable carbon-neutral houses

Zero-emission buildings that take no electricity from the grid and come at an affordable price - this is the ambitious goal of an R&D programme launched by a construction industry consortium on Wednesday.

While “green homes” that are unconnected to the electricity grid are already a reality, with a combination of energy efficiency and independent power generation ensuring self-sufficiency, their costs have so far kept them at the experimental stage.

But the new industry-led effort, coordinated by the Geneva-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development, aims to make similar buildings available on the global market at “fair market values” by 2050.

Global construction corporations Lafarge and United Technologies, which are leading the programme, will be working on energy efficient building materials and incorporating renewable energy sources into building design in a way that is sensitive to local contexts.

The programme will see a series of conferences and hearings held over three years, involving everyone from building contractors and sustainability experts to government representatives and regulators.

The information gathered will feed into producing a strategy for achieving zero-emission buildings by 2050, at costs that would enable them to commercially spread across China, India, Brazil, the US and EU.

Buildings consume 40% of the developed world’s energy supply, the WBCSD points out. WBCSD president Björn Stigson said: “Being smarter and more efficient about how we use energy in buildings will help us conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.

“We believe this initiative can provide extremely cost-effective solutions. It will also set the course for self-sufficient and environmentally sound buildings in which future generations will live, work and be entertained.

“Our partners are industry leaders with technological expertise and presence that no single existing organization or government could provide on its own.”

By Goska Romanowicz

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