Survey: What will it take to make buildings more efficient?

Oct. 19, 2012
By Elisa Wood October 18, 2012 In 2010, China built more housing than Spain has homes. That factoid underscores the significance of energy efficiency for buildings in a report released this week by an affiliate of the respected publication, The Economist. Commissioned by the Global Buildings Performance Network, the report emerged from a survey of real […]
By Elisa Wood
October 18, 2012

In 2010, China built more housing than Spain has homes. That factoid underscores the significance of energy efficiency for buildings in a report released this week by an affiliate of the respected publication, The Economist.

Commissioned by the Global Buildings Performance Network, the report emerged from a survey of real estate and construction executives in the  European Union, India, China and the US.

It offered promising news: The right policy signals could unleash an international boom in energy efficiency.

What motivates these professionals? Not surprisingly, it’s the potential they see to cut costs. They “are ready to go deep and are waiting for the right policy signals that can scale up energy efficiency in the sector,” said GBPN in the report.

Although barriers exist, business leaders in building and real estate already are pursuing a range of efficiency measures. The survey found that:

  • Energy usage is important for most of the companies and is key factor in investment decisions to 63% of those surveyed. Companies that describe themselves as “financially successful” rated energy particularly high.
  • Lighting retrofits scored high among actions companies are taking. About 57 percent are replacing lighting , 50 percent HVAC systems and 50 percent building insulation.
  • Forty percent are reconfiguring building layout to take advantage of natural light.
  • Energy efficiency is a risk management tool for 69 percent, a sign that they have  a sophisticated understanding of energy.

Not all of the news was good, however. Companies are unaware of the actual costs of their energy use. Less than a third have commissioned energy audits for their buildings. Further, two thirds of those surveyed overestimate the cost of energy efficient construction.

A surprising 75 percent saw benefit in energy regulation and described lack of enforcement as a problem. The solution? Not too much carrot and not too much stick, concluded the survey report.

“While the survey shows that most companies prefer carrots, at some point governments also need to wield the stick,” the report said. “Striking the right balance between incentives and restrictions is not easy. Excessive red tape and mixed messages are costly to business and slow the adoption of more efficient technologies. The market needs clear long-term signals, rational expectations and opportunities for a reasonable return on investment.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 423 senior executives from the real estate and construction industries in the summer 2012. About 27 percent of those surveyed came from the US, 24 percent from the European Union, 25 percent from China and 24 percent from India. All of those surveyed worked in operations, strategy or finance. More than half were C-level executives or above and nearly half from businesses with more than $500 million in global annual revenue.
The full report, “Energy Efficiency and Energy Savings: A View from the Building Sector,” is available for download at http://www.globalbuildings.org/news/new-report-businesses-are-ready-to-go-deep.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer. See more of her work at RealEnergyWriters.com.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

Facebook:  Microgrids

Only through Standardization Can Microgrids Accelerate the Energy Transition

Jan. 18, 2024
Jana Gerber, North America microgrid president at Schneider Electric discusses how standardizing microgrids will accelerate the energy transition.

Top 5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Commitment to Sustainability

Learn how to reduce carbon emissions, energy costs and energy usage for your campus in ways that address the climate concerns of students, faculty and the community.