Building Blocks for Sustainability
Building Blocks for Sustainability

Buildings are responsible for a high proportion of global carbon emissions – but a constructive approach to their creation and design can help lay the foundations for a sustainable future.

Rapid population growth and urbanisation mean demand for new buildings will only increase, putting pressure on the environment and adding to the headache of rising carbon emissions worldwide.


Emissions from the construction and operation of buildings combined with the production of building materials accounted for 37% of total global energy-related carbon emissions in 2020, according to the United National Environment Programme’s 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction.


At the same time, however, buildings also offer myriad opportunities for developing climate mitigation solutions, and there is immense potential for the construction sector to embrace smart city strategies to drive more sustainable and efficient urban planning.


Sky-high ambitions

The International Energy Agency has drawn up a list of proposals to keep the buildings sector on course to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.


These include driving policies to ensure all new buildings and 20% of the existing building stock are zero-carbon-ready by 2030, significantly increasing renewable energy generation for buildings, while supporting and promoting greater energy efficiency in buildings.


A range of initiatives have also emerged in recent years to help countries and cities decarbonise buildings, including the Buildings as a Critical Climate Solution commitment launched by the UN Environment Programme and the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction at the 26th UN Climate Conference (COP26) in November.


Other commitments include the UN-backed Cities Race to Zero, signed by more than 1,000 cities and local governments, the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, and the 2019 Zero Carbon Buildings for All initiative by the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Globally, countries are decarbonising buildings to lower emissions.
Globally, countries are decarbonising buildings to achieve lower emissions.


The WRI also introduced the Zero Carbon Building Accelerator in 2021 which aims to support governments in decarbonising the building sector by 2050 through the implementation of policies for market transformation. 


Smart city thinking

Hong Kong is a city with a particularly acute issue concerning the carbon footprint of buildings. It has around 8,000 high-rise buildings including 1,500-plus skyscrapers of more than 100 metres, and around 80,000 lifts and escalators.


Buildings account for around 90% of Hong Kong’s electricity consumption, and the electricity generation for buildings makes up more than 60% of the city’s carbon emissions, according to government statistics. More than 50% of the energy used in commercial and industrial buildings is for air-conditioning.


Electricity generation for buildings makes up more than 60% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions.
Electricity generation for buildings makes up more than 60% of Hong Kong’s carbon emissions.


Hong Kong is committed to reducing the overall electricity consumption of the city’s buildings by promoting green buildings, improving energy efficiency with the help of smart technologies, and promoting low-carbon lifestyles in a mission to be carbon neutral before 2050.


Under Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050, the government aims to reduce the electricity consumption of commercial buildings by 30-40% and residential buildings by 20-30% from 2015 levels by 2050. 


It is also committed to halving total carbon emissions of Hong Kong against the 2005 levels before 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2050. 


To help save electricity in buildings, the government announced plans to strengthen regulations on building energy performance. It will also consider conducting energy audits more frequently and mandating the implementation of identified energy management opportunities.


At the same time, the government will look into the possibility to strengthen the promotion of retro-commissioning to assess and optimise the energy performance of existing buildings. 


Furthermore, the Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint 2.0 proposes using intelligent appliances and smart building technology, such as sensors and controllers that analyse environmental data and adjust lighting, ventilation, and cooling and heating systems for greater energy efficiency.


To support these objectives, the Hong Kong Green Building Council also runs a BEAM Plus certification scheme to encourage smarter and greener building practices by offering independent assessments of building sustainability performance.


Helping businesses transform

As Hong Kong’s largest energy company, CLP has a critical role to play in decarbonising the city's buildings by drawing on its power expertise and digital technology capabilities.


Among CLP’s energy-as-a-service product offerings, Smart Energy Connect (SEC) serves as a digital platform that connects innovative products, technologies, and customers looking for energy management solutions to reduce carbon footprint and achieve their sustainability goals.


Meanwhile, CLPe Solutions, which focuses on energy and infrastructure solutions, helps customers create distributed and renewable energy systems while using smart energy technology to enhance their energy efficiency.


CLP is progressively increasing the adoption of smart meters across Hong Kong.
CLP is progressively increasing the adoption of smart meters across Hong Kong.

CLP is also progressively increasing the adoption of smart meters across Hong Kong. The meters enable customers to access consumption data and to improve their energy efficiency.


To further support customers in meeting strengthened building energy regulations, CLP also provides free energy audit services, retro-commissioning programmes, and subsidy programmes to encourage customers to implement energy-saving improvement works. 


Building on Hong Kong’s growing partnerships with neighbouring cities in the Greater Bay Area, CLP is also focused on meeting growing demand for diversified energy solutions in the region.


As an example, CLP began a comprehensive upgrade of the centralised cooling system at Po Park Shopping Plaza in Guangzhou in 2021. AI technology from SEC’s digital platform is used to analyse real-time operational data of chiller equipment and optimise its energy efficiency.


CLP's Eco Building Fund offers financial support to building owners to carry out energy-saving improvement works and retro-commissioning works.


A collective green journey

Climate change is a universal challenge, and it will take a combined effort by communities, governments, and businesses to save energy and reduce emissions from buildings.


Hong Kong’s example illustrates how a green building movement can only succeed with the right policy support to encourage the wider adoption of increasingly ambitious green building standards.


Businesses must also work with trusted partners and adopt the right technology to identify any opportunities to enhance their overall energy efficiency. By doing so, they will not only benefit from savings but also speed us along on our collective journey to a net-zero future.


It takes a combined effort by communities, governments and businesses to reduce emissions from buildings.
It takes a combined effort by communities, governments and businesses to reduce emissions from buildings.