They use about 40 percent of global energy and resources, and account for more than 30 percent of total greenhouse-gas emissions. And if new technologies in construction are not adopted soon, the amount of emissions could double by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Program.
But buildings also offer great potential for achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. According to the UNEP, by using proven and commercially available technologies, energy consumption in buildings can be cut by 30 to 80 percent.
To help companies mainstream green buildings in emerging markets, IFC has developed EDGE, an online platform that allows design teams to estimate the efficiency of a building by using practical solutions and alternative materials. EDGE defines a green building as one that is projected to reduce the consumption of energy and water by at least 20 percent, as well as the energy used to make the construction materials.
EDGE illustrates the potential cost savings and greenhouse-gas reductions from efficient heating and cooling systems, natural ventilation, water-saving plumbing devices, and building materials with lower environmental impact. The effort pays off for owners and tenants by lowering monthly heating, electricity and water bills while also reducing the carbon footprint of buildings.
The program’s objective is to convert 20 percent of the new buildings being built into green buildings within seven years in rapidly urbanizing countries. On the residential side alone, the results would equate to 1.3 million green homes and a reduction of a million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
Builders can choose to use EDGE free of cost at the design stage or take their projects all the way through to certification. Developers with projects in nearly 100 countries can now certify their buildings as green when they meet the EDGE standard, with case studies showcasing their progress. Local certification providers have initiated services in key markets, including Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, with South Africa next on the horizon.
Two of the world’s leading certification providers, GBCI and thinkstep, in partnership with SGS, have also announced their commitment to deploy EDGE across the world in an effort to stimulate and satisfy rising demand.
The program opens doors for IFC’s clients to address issues with buildings that pinch pockets while harming the environment. “You have to be sensible to be sustainable, and in today’s world, sustainability sells,” said Ashish Jakhanwala, the CEO of SAMHI and a vocal advocate for convincing peers to build green. “In the affordable hotel business, you are fighting for a small margin of profitability. That is why for us, EDGE is a tool for survival.”
Because of clients like SAMHI, IFC’s investment account in green buildings now tops $1.5 billion. But transformation will require an escalation of available financing, which McKinsey estimates to be $200 billion-250 billion per year for the affordable housing market alone. In response, progressive financial institutions such as CDC, Proparco and FMO have adopted EDGE. The Climate Bond Initiative, a not-for-profit focused on mobilizing the $100 trillion bond market towards climate change solutions, also now uses EDGE as a benchmark for assessment, paving the way for a new universal standard.
“Market transformation will require widespread participation, and EDGE will help achieve green buildings for all within a generation,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, the President of GBCI and COO of the U.S. Green Building Council. “This is a gateway to a more sustainable future that will enable us to secure emission cuts for decades to come.”