Those Net-Zero Building Commitments are Adding Up

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The COVID-19 outbreak has many office buildings sitting idly, without employees streaming in every morning and out every afternoon. While lockdowns briefly decreased global carbon emissions about 17 percent, this was mostly due to transportation, flights and commuting grinding to halt. But 36 percent of fossil-fuel carbon emissions come from buildings, and even though most are unoccupied, the lights are still on and the heating or air conditioning is still running.

These metrics show why commercial buildings have become an important focus for the World Green Building Council (WGBC). Its Advancing Net Zero buildings initiative aims to have every building produce net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. That’s every building on the planet.

Right now, there are 1 billion buildings in the world, and that footprint will double by 2060. It is difficult to know how many buildings are operating at net-zero because some buildings are operating at net-zero because of the renewable energy supplied by the grid. WGBC is working on tracking the data to show increased uptake in renewable energy.

As of August 5th, 62 businesses, 28 cities and six states have signed on to be WGBC’s leaders in this initiative by committing to make all their buildings net-zero carbon-emitting by 2030 or sooner. California has signed onto the commitment with 16 million buildings, along with businesses such as design firm Atelier Ten, healthcare real estate investment trust Assura and retail center developer Wereldhave.

Each organization pledging to support the WGBC initiative must commit to a net-zero building goal, disclose annual energy demand and carbon emissions for its portfolio, create a concrete action plan and have a third party perform a verification of the data and the strategy.

WGBC will allow any credible third party, such as LEED, to do the certification so businesses aren’t burdened with having to double up. Another available option is a verification at the portfolio level for cities and businesses. The third parties offer compliance and assurance, using established reporting protocols and standards, to make sure the data is accurate. Some signatories use JLL, a global real estate company that provides these services. Others use environmental services organizations such as Bureau Veritas or Apex Companies, which took over the North American branch Bureau Veritas in the summer of 2019.

By 2030, WGBC is targeting 40 percent less embodied carbon in new buildings, infrastructure and renovations and all new buildings must be net-zero operational carbon.

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