Washington, March 23 : A new report has determined that constructing more energy-efficient buildings might be the cheapest way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow down global warming.
According to a report in the Scientific American, the report, carried out by the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), building green buildings and upgrading the insulation and windows in the existing ones, could save 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.
This literally means cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent.
"This is the cheapest, quickest, most significant way to make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions," said Jonathan Westeinde, chief executive of green developer Windmill Development Group in Ottawa, Ontario, and chair of the CEC report.
Yet, "green buildings"-defined by the report as "environmentally preferable practices and materials in the design, location, construction, operation and disposal of buildings"-represents only 2 percent of the commercial edifices in the U.S. and 0.3 percent of new homes.
According to Westeinde, a big part of the problem is that many builders are unwilling to invest extra money for more efficient energy and water systems that only translate into cost savings for the eventual owners.
But, Westeinde's company gets around this dilemma by working out long-term financing arrangements with owners, who agree share a portion of their future cost savings with the developer.
The price gap between energy-efficient and conventional construction might eventually disappear as green buildings become more common.
"If everyone is using a certain type of window that drives cost down," said Westeinde.
"Green construction is only 4 percent of the market which means the other 96 percent are creating a volume discount for themselves. But if green becomes 50 percent of the industry, that cost differential goes away," he added.
The report calls for the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. governments to set specific targets for green buildings as well as to adopt continental standards, such as siting buildings in a way that maximizes passive solar heating and cooling.
According to Evan Lloyd, CEC director of programs, "It is the best systems and technology that can be applied to reduce energy consumption as well as paying attention to resource inputs."