The 3 Global major challenges facing the Construction sector


The current world population today is 7.7 B (as of August. 2019). In 1800, there were 900 million humans on Earth. By 1900, there were 1,5 billion. In the 200 years since 1800, the number of humans increased by more than 6B. And this population will be more and more urbanised: 1 million people move to cities every week! 70% of the world population in cities by 2050, In the past 200 years, the size of the largest cities rose from about 1 million to more than 20 M today. Cities are expected to be responsible for 70% of all GHG (greenhouse gas) emission in 2030.


Total energy consumption doubled in the nineteenth century and then rose by 10 times in the 20th century. Human’s consumption of energy rose much faster than human population. Within 250 years of the first modern steam engine, fossil fuel technologies had transformed the entire planet. In the two centuries since the Industrial revolution (period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840), levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide had risen to levels higher than any seen for almost a million years.


PETM (Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum) – a sharp shock of greenhouse warming about fifty-six million years ago. It was damaging enough to drive many species to extinction. The PETM is of interest today because it is the most recent period of rapid greenhouse warming in Earth’s history, so it may help us understand climate change today. The amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere during the PETM were similar to those being released today by the burning of fossil fuels, the result was an increase of between 5 and 9 degrees Celsius in average global temperatures. By the end of that period, many species of plants, animals and sea-dwellers has vanished.


Without additional efforts to reduce GHG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist, driven by growth in global population and economic activities. Baseline scenarios, those without additional mitigation, result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 from 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels. The urgent need for making further progress in greening our economies is clear. Buildings are responsible for 39% of global carbon emissions, but since the COP21 and the Paris agreement in 2015, among 104 of 194 countries that signed the Paris Agreement have committed to improve building energy efficiency to meet mitigation targets, only 68 countries currently have building energy codes.

By 2050, global population will increase 27% to 9.8bn and global floor area will increase by 100%. Its demand on natural resources is a major contributing factor to global warming, and inefficient, un-healthy buildings are affecting our livelihoods. This global growth places increasing demand on our energy grid, our infrastructure and resources, including water. These challenges present a strong leadership opportunity for the building and construction industry.


The World Green Building Council strategy is focused on three key areas: climate action, resource efficiency and health & wellbeing in order to drive impact from the building and construction sector to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


  • Climate action: to focus on effective ways to cut carbon emissions and GHG through accelerate energy efficiency and a shift away from fossil fuels
  • Resource efficiency: to promote Circular economy – an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources by employing reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, re-manufacturing and recycling to create a close-loop system, minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste.
  • Health & well-being: to accelerate a sustainable built environment by proving and supporting benefits for people, particularly related to health and wellbeing, reduce contribution from built environment to global health crises


Energy demand will increase by 50% by 2050. Out of 39% of global carbon emissions that buildings responsible for, 28% of these emissions come from the operational “in-use” phase – to heat, power and cool them, while 11% of these emissions are attributed to embodied carbon emissions, which refers to carbon that is released during the construction process and material manufacturing. Energy efficiency is the core driver to reduce operational emissions, via the set-up of building codes and renovation..

The Advancing Net Zero project is a global campaign to drive decarbonisation of the world’s buildings, calling for All new buildings to operate at net zero carbon from 2030 and 100% of buildings to operate at net zero carbon by 2050. The four key principles of this Global project are included firstly measure and disclose carbon, in which requires operational performance of buildings based on metered data. Secondly reduce energy demand by prioritize energy efficiency. Thirdly generate balance from renewables resorts and lastly progress to include other impact areas such as embodied carbon, water and waste

Better place for people is another global campaign to accelerate a sustainable built environment by proving and supporting benefits for people, particularly related to health and wellbeing.

We spent 90% of our time inside buildings while 92% of the air in places we live is unsafe to breathe. Better Places for People is a global project that links buildings to the people that occupy them.

The Project targets to reduce contribution from built environment to global health crises, such as air pollution and increase awareness and education on sustainable, healthy buildings, prove business case for green buildings. The good thing is that buildings can be designed, built, renovated and operated differently, to increase their occupants wellbeing. Houses, offices, schools, hospitals, all kind of buildings can be made healthy and comfortable, with a positive impact on people.

In the past five years, WGBC has built case study reports demonstrate that these trends of health and wellbeing co-benefits in green buildings are actually taking shape around the world, published reports around a variety of building typologies, including retail, homes, schools and offices.

Green buildings are a critical solution to tackling climate change and they also offer a host of additional economic and social benefits. Improving building efficiency represents one of the most affordable and effective ways to cut carbon emissions. Green, sustainable buildings have reduced energy costs, water costs, waste, and other associated impacts. They improve internal comfort conditions and therefore staff productivity. With its approach based on Social, Environment and Economic indicators to assess the building performance, Green building benefits all 3 groups of stakeholders: the tenant, the developer, the owner.

By Ms. Hang Phan, VGBC Chair,

May 2020