Buildings are the Largest Contributor to Climate Change
According to the US Department of Energy, who tracks carbon dioxide emissions, buildings are responsible for more CO2 emissions than transportation (29%) and industry (32%). At a whopping 39%, commercial buildings tally 18% of emissions and 21% can be attributed to residential buildings.
Further, according to Architecture 2030, over the next 30 years it is estimated that property owners will collectively build or renovate about 75% of all buildings that will be operating in year 2040, indicating that a major improvement in aggregate building energy performance is possible. However, for this shift to be made, the focus of commercial real estate will have to shift to improving the performance of existing buildings. This can be achieved at reasonable economic cost, just by using existing technology, and green leases are a part of the solution.
Buildings Consume More Energy Than Any Other Sector
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Building Sector consumes nearly half (48.7%) of all energy produced in the United States. Seventy-six percent (75.7%) of all the electricity produced in the U.S. is used just to operate buildings. Globally, these percentages are even greater.
The Health of the Economy is Tied to the Building Sector
The nation’s economy hinges on a healthy building market. Buildings touch nearly every industry (from steel, insulation, and caulking to mechanical and electrical equipment, glass, wood, metals, tile, fabrics and paint) across all sectors of the U.S. economy (from architecture, planning, design, engineering, banking, and development to manufacturing, construction, wholesale, retail, and distribution).
And of course, we all live, work, play, learn and love in buildings. We are born in buildings, and most of us die in buildings.
Buildings Use Up Natural Resources Faster Than They Can Be Replenished
Vast amounts of water, waste, products, goods and materials used in our buildings affect forest and ecosystem health and consume tons of energy, from extraction, to processing, to shipping, to use and then to discard.
Most Buildings Are Harmful To Their Occupants
Chemicals of concern emitted from the extraction, production, use, and disposal of materials, in our buildings affect the health and productivity of everyone involved - staff and visitors, our communities and our planet.
Government bodies continue to study many of the chemicals added to or used to make building products and many materials contain chemicals to be among the most hazardous known to human kind. Some of the commonly used building materials may contain formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen; and be made from PVC, whose dioxin created during manufacture and after disposal is a known poison.
A blood test will indicate toxic chemicals to be found in the breast milk, urine, and blood of even the most remote and primitive populations of people in the world.
According to the Healthy Building Network, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered more than 80,000 chemicals for use, and identified 16,000 of them as chemicals of concern. However, the EPA has only subjected 250 to mandatory hazard testing and only restricted five chemicals or chemical classes.
With a regulatory system offering little oversight into what goes into the products used in buildings, and how much energy and CO2 contributions they make, organizations must look to themselves to eliminate chemicals and to encourage safer, healthier, and more efficient buildings.