Rapid urbanisation and a rising population will require more and more new homes and offices. For new buildings, sustainable certification schemes and standards can decrease emissions, and at reasonable cost. Such schemes cover sustainable building materials, integrated sustainable waste and water management systems and accessibility to amenities.
Mandatory emissions limits could be considered, such as those used in New York City, which cap emissions per square metre based on a building’s size, function and shape. Net-zero and near-zero energy building standards are increasingly used to set high-energy performance requirements so that buildings consume the same or close to the same amount of energy as they produce, mostly from on-site or nearby renewable energy sources. The European Union for example requires all new buildings to be compliant with near-zero building standards by 2021.
Low-energy houses are becoming more affordable and cost-effective compared to conventional buildings, and policy should compel contractors and building firms to produce them whenever possible. For instance, the so-called Passive House standard is a powerful voluntary certification for buildings, and increasingly used worldwide. Thanks to sound construction features, Passive House buildings are highly energy efficient, affordable and comfortable to live in, allowing for substantial energy savings of up to 90% compared to regular existing buildings, and 75% compared to regular new buildings.
Report: Financing Climate Futures - Rethinking Infrastructure, OECD (2018).
Report: Brick by Brick - Building Better Housing Policies, OECD (2021)
Toolkit: Making housing more efficient, more inclusive and more sustainable, OECD (2021)