Buildings & Cities

Buildings and cities are responsible for 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Generating electricity to heat, cool and light buildings accounts for up to 2/3 of this. To drastically reduce this footprint buildings must become more efficient, smarter and cost friendly. Given the scale of the built environments impact, there is a lot of innovation needed with respect to design, energy, water and impact. Cities need to be more productive in terms of air, water, fauna and flora and ultimately a regenerative source.

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Retrofitting buildings with insulation is a cost-effective solution for reducing energy required for heating and cooling. If 54% of existing residential and commercial buildings install installation, 8.3 gigatons of emissions could be avoided.

Assuming LEDs become ubiquitous by 2050 with over 90% uptake in the household lighting sector and over 80% in commercial lighting, this could avoid 7.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in residences and an additional 5 gigatons in commercial buildings.

What was previously an engineering challenge is becoming an increasingly popular construction method the world over. A net zero building is one that is self supportive. If 9.7% of new buildings are net zero by 2050 this will remove 7.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide

Heating and cooling of residential and commercial buildings comes from on-site fuel combustion and electricity based systems. High efficiency heat pumps reduce fuel consumption to zero and use less electricity. With costs decreasing rapidly, uptake should increase and emissions reductions would be around 5.2 gigatons at a cost of $119 billion.

Methane over the course of a century has up to thirty-four times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a top source of methane emissions. Landfill methane can be captured and used to generate heat or electricity. Combusting landfill methane for electricity production can result in emissions reductions equivalent to 2.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

In some cities bicycles share over 20% of transport options. Assuming a rise from 5.5% to 7.5% of urban trips globally by 2050 this will displace over 2 trillion passenger miles and avoid 2.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Windows let in either the heat or cold. They are poor at keeping room temperature in outside temperature out. Smart glass is an up and coming solution with minimal adoption to this point but it can make windows responsive in real time to the weather. Adopting smart glass could reduce emissions by 2.2 gigatons by 2050.

Water is heavy and in many places infrastructure is inadequate. Leak and pressure management could reduce water losses by 20% by 2050 or .9 gigatons.

From the air the majority of cities are a mix of black and brown rooftops. This is changing, Germany and Austria are good examples here. If green and cool roofs cover 60% of available roofs this would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by .8 gigatons at a cost of $1.4 trillion.

Source: Drawdown the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.