Green Building Initiatives

Mounting concerns about energy security, global warming and the risk of catastrophic climate change combined with national commitments to Kyoto targets have led to numerous policy initiatives to improve energy efficiency in wood consuming countries.

The built environment has been a key focus of many of these initiatives. It is globally responsible for between 30 and 40% of energy use and CO2 emissions. Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that buildings offer the greatest potential for emissions reductions over all other sectors. Even the application of existing technologies could cut carbon emissions from buildings by half without significantly increasing investment costs.

Energy efficiency standards in construction are often linked to green building rating standards and certification procedures which attempt to provide a broader measure of the environmental performance of whole buildings. Most of these tools rate a building through its design and construction phase, although some also rate a completed building in operation.

Some green building rating and certification systems – notably the US-based LEED and UK-based BREEAM – have been adapted for international application. However the current trend is towards development of nationally-based systems to meet the specific needs of local construction industries and to reflect differences in standard practice, cultures and environmental issues. The range of countries with green building rating systems has increased rapidly in recent years.

 
  • The map below shows countries with green building certification tools in March 2010

    countries with green building certification tools

 

AHEC is monitoring the evolution of these systems with a view to identifying opportunities for increased use of American hardwoods. U.S. hardwood products have potential to make a significant contribution to the achievement of high ratings under many of these systems, for example by contributing to credits for building energy performance, indoor air quality, renewable materials, building and materials reuse, and construction waste management.

However AHEC also believes a considerable amount of work is still required to ensure that standards give appropriate credit to the environmental attributes of American hardwood products. A key problem is that many green building rating tools are not built on a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach. Instead credits are offered for a variety of environmental attributes which are perceived to be desirable in an uncoordinated and potentially contradictory way.

Examples of green building rating systems include: