How better buildings are essential for stopping climate change

From how they're built to how they're run, buildings are a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore building better is essential for stopping climate change and creating a healthier, more sustainable planet.

In this latest in our series of Ignite webinars, Project Drawdown senior scientist Amanda D. Smith shares insights into how the built environment contributes to climate change – and the part it can play in mitigating it. 

Top Takeaways:

  • The footprint of buildings is expected to grow 75% by 2050, with the bulk of that in low and middle-income countries.
  • Calculations of how much buildings contribute to Earth’s greenhouse gas burden vary, but one thing is clear: If we want to halt climate change, we need to alter how we make and use buildings.
  • Buildings’ biggest direct climate impacts come from burning fossil fuels and using refrigerants. Other contributors include electricity, transportation, other energy-related emissions, and land use change.
  • For advanced buildings with low energy use, embodied emissions (industrial emissions and others created in making the materials that comprise the building) are an increasingly large portion of their overall climate impact.

We can’t address climate change or other imbalances without changing how we build and how we operate our buildings.

Amanda D. Smith
  • Every climate problem contains a kernel of a solution. For example, growth in air  conditioning is a climate concern, but heat pumps use the same technology as modern air conditioners.
  • Similarly, every climate solution contains a kernel of a problem. For example, by operating in synchrony, smart thermostats can create high demand for electricity at certain times of the day.
  • That means we need to think about both problems and solutions holistically, considering all consequences and continuously moving toward a suite of solutions that optimizes benefits.
  • To minimize climate impacts, we need to design, construct, and operate buildings with the opportunities and constraints of their surroundings in mind.

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Three Things You Can Do NOW:

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  2. Contact your local utility to request an energy audit of your home or workplace, then follow through on recommendations. 
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