The building sector has a strong global potential to help protect the environment and increase life comfort and well being.
The Earth’s ecosystems are now at a critical stage: they are not only being severely damaged but human activity currently leads to irreversible losses of critical (i.e. life-supporting) ecosystem functions. Buildings and construction works have the largest single share in global resource use and pollution emission. In OECD countries the built environment is responsible for around 25-40% of total energy use, 30% of raw material use, 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions and for 30 to 40% of solid waste generation.
In addition, in OECD countries, people spend almost 90% of their life inside buildings. In the United States, the annual cost of building-related sickness is estimated to be at $58 billion. Consequently, healthy and comfortable indoor environments contribute significantly to human health and well-being and offer a large potential for reducing ‘external’ costs to societies through lowering diseases.
Beyond individual buildings, poor patterns of building development often lead to congestion and inefficient use of land, resulting in greater energy consumption and travel time, loss of productivity, polluted runoff to surface water and wastewater treatment systems, loss of agricultural lands, fragmented habitats, and fiscal stress to local communities.