IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

6.7 Barriers to adopting building technologies and practices that reduce GHG emissions

The previous sections have shown the significant cost-effective potential for CO2 mitigation through energy efficiency in buildings. The question often arises: If these represent profitable investment opportunities, or energy cost savings foregone by households and businesses, why are these opportunities not pursued? If there are profits to be made, why do markets not capture these potentials?

Certain characteristics of markets, technologies and end-users can inhibit rational, energy-saving choices in building design, construction and operation, as well as in the purchase and use of appliances. The Carbon Trust (2005) suggests a classification of these barriers into four main categories: financial costs/benefits; hidden costs/benefits; real market failures; and behavioural/organizational non-optimalities. Table 6.5 gives characteristic examples of barriers that fall into these four main categories. The most important among them that pertain to buildings are discussed below in further detail.

6.7.1 Limitations of the traditional building design process and fragmented market structure

One of the most significant barriers to energy-efficient building design is that buildings are complex systems. While the typical design process is linear and sequential, minimizing energy use requires optimizing the system as a whole by systematically addressing building form, orientation, envelope, glazing area and a host of interaction and control issues involving the building’s mechanical and electrical systems.

Compounding the flaws in the typical design process is fragmentation in the building industry as a whole. Assuring the long-term energy performance and sustainability of buildings is all the more difficult when decisions at each stage of design, construction and operation involve multiple stakeholders. This division of responsibilities often contributes to suboptimal results (e.g., under-investment in energy-efficient approaches to envelope design because of a failure to capitalize on opportunities to down-size HVAC equipment). In Switzerland, this barrier is being addressed by the integration of architects into the selection and installation of energy-using devices in buildings (Jefferson, 2000); while the European Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings in the EU (see Box 6.3) aims to bring engineers in at early stages of the design process through its whole-building, performance-based approach.