FEATURE STORY

Greening Building Design with the Click of a Mouse

October 2, 2014

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Photo: Trinn Suwannapha/World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new online tool created by the IFC is helping developers and homeowners find the most efficient ways to reduce a building’s energy and water use and lower its greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The effort pays off for owners and tenants by lowering monthly heating, electricity, and water bills while also reducing their climate impact.
  • South Africa recently launched the first of several planned certification programs for buildings that meet the EDGE standard of using 20 percent less energy, water, and embodied energy in building materials than their peers.

Small changes can make a big difference in the efficiency of buildings. Determining the most effective changes hasn’t always been easy, though, and resource-efficient homes and commercial buildings used to be rare in emerging markets.

As part of the effort to expand energy and resource efficiency around the world, the World Bank Group through its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), recently debuted an online tool called EDGE that allows anyone, from contractors to hospital managers to homeowners, to model the efficiency of a building using various options and alternative materials.

The tool illustrates the cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions possible from choices such as efficient heating and cooling systems, natural ventilation, water-saving plumbing, and buildings materials with lower environmental impact. The effort pays off for owners and tenants by lowering monthly heating, electricity, and water bills while also reducing their climate impact.

“EDGE quickly and easily demonstrates the business case for building green in emerging markets,” said Prashant Kapoor, IFC’s principal green buildings industry specialist.

For example, in a typical high-end commercial building in Jakarta, a designer could choose to reduce the amount of glass to see how much energy could be saved. The designer could also test shading the glass to reduce energy demand. EDGE also offers options such as using a better air conditioning system or higher-quality glass. For each option, it presents the resulting reduction in energy consumption as well as incremental costs.

Adding ceiling fans to office spaces in an average-sized, six-story office building in New Delhi, as another example, could cut energy use by 16 percent. Insulating the roof and walls could reduce energy use by 10 percent more, while using energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the building could provide an additional 16 percent in energy savings. EDGE, which stands for “Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies,” offers climate-specific information for more than 100 countries.



" EDGE quickly and easily demonstrates the business case for building green in emerging markets. Our intention is to help mainstream the construction of resource-efficient residential and commercial buildings by bringing together governments, green building councils, financial institutions, developers, and homeowners. "
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Prashant Kapoor

Principal Green Buildings Industry Specialist, IFC


“Our intention is to help mainstream the construction of resource-efficient residential and commercial buildings by bringing together governments, green building councils, financial institutions, developers, and homeowners. We have made great progress laying the groundwork for success in South Africa and hope to quickly replicate our strategy in other major markets,” Kapoor said.  

Encouraging efficiency through certification

The Green Business Council of South Africa and IFC recently launched an EDGE certification program in South Africa, focused on the residential property sector, and certification is being rolled out in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama.

The voluntary certification is a way for builders to demonstrate the benefits of green efficiencies to residents, owners, and investors. Buildings that use 20 percent less energy, water, and embodied energy in building materials than their peers – as demonstrated by the EDGE tool – achieve the EDGE performance standard and are eligible for certification.

To help builders reduce energy toward meeting the performance standard, EDGE shows the differences in choosing efficient HVAC systems, lower-energy lighting, solar solutions, or even the use of fans in all rooms. Water consumption can be reduced by choosing to install low-flow showerheads or faucets as well as dual flush systems for water closets. The tool takes into account the climate of the city where the building is being designed. Once a user identifies the city and country, temperatures are populated into the system, as are local costs.

As the user chooses the different materials and options to design the building, EDGE gives a running tally of estimated monthly energy use, the amount of greenhouse gas that is saved as well as utility costs, and how long it will take to pay back the green investments in the building.

Changing how people think about construction

The EDGE green building program is trying to change the way people think about and value green buildings – as practical and necessary, not as luxuries – and to encourage their construction in rapidly urbanizing economies. The goal is to make the benefits clearer for builders, bankers, and buyers.

The International Energy Agency estimates buildings account for one-third of final energy consumption globally and energy demand could rise by 50 percent by 2050, if no action is taken to improve efficiencies in buildings. 

According to the IEA, the deployment of energy-efficient technologies that are already commercially available could result in global savings equivalent to the current energy use of Russia and India combined. 


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