Equation for zero emissions-achieving carbon-neutrality in building sector

Antti Ruuska (Corresponding Author), Markus Makinen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle in a proceedings journalScientificpeer-review


    Energy has a central role in people's lives. However, access to affordable, clean and reliable energy is not the case yet for all. As more people have access to energy, the global energy consumption is set to rise, along with the global greenhouse gas emissions. The building sector is one of the most significant ones in terms of energy consumption and GHG emissions (Ruuska, 2018). Buildings consume vast share of global energy and produce significant share of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus far the improvements in energy efficiency have not been able to offset the increase in energy use due to increased amount of buildings. In order to cap the global warming to 1.5 °C (IPCC), thorough changes are needed in the way we consume and produce energy. For the building sector, it is suggested that the whole of the building sector should decarbonize by 2050 (WGBC, 2018). This paper assumes that the building sector can decarbonize by 2050 and looks for ways to make it happen. Technological means to move towards clean, low-carbon energy in buildings are many. On the supply side, moving away from fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewable energy are the big goals. On the demand side, energy use can be reduced through better energy efficiency in buildings. Furthermore, smart energy management can help to operate buildings optimally, and to shift and reduce peak loads. There are also opportunities related to, for example, energy storages. However, this paper assumes that the key towards broader implementation of the technological means may lie in user-friendly services and business models. This paper further assumes that decarbonizing construction industry is not a technological problem as such, but more of a systemic problem. Therefore, this paper seeks to understand the interactions and feedback loops in the sector, by focusing on the level of a single building and its owner/user. This paper shows the general dynamics of the energy systems around a single building, and the connections they have to the broader energy system. Furthermore, this paper presents a simple equation for zero emission building stock and links this equation to system dynamics around single building's energy systems. All of this is done from the viewpoint of a single building and its owner/user to illustrate how the situation looks from the user/owner perspective and to see if some factors arise that could speed up the transformation towards decarbonized building sector.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number012030
    JournalIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2019
    MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
    EventSustainable Built Environment Conference, SBE 2019 - Helsinki, Finland
    Duration: 22 May 201924 May 2019


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