Buildings represent around 37% of global energy use and energy-related CO2 emissions for their operation and when the production of materials used for their construction are taken into account.

To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature increase to well below 2°C, the global economy should aim to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The 2021 IEA report, Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector (hereafter, Net Zero by 2050), illustrates “a cost-effective and economically productive pathway, resulting in a clean, dynamic and resilient energy economy dominated by renewables like solar and wind instead of fossil fuels”. This pathway outlines a transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access and enabling robust economic growth across different sectors.

The buildings sector plays a key role in decarbonising the global economy. The Net Zero by 2050 report estimates the potential to reduce 97% of this sector’s direct CO2 emissions by 2050, despite the sector’s activity more than doubling through growing floor area, expanding access to energy services and increasing living standards. This becomes possible through the transition to zero-carbon-ready buildings – highly energy-efficient buildings that either use renewable energy directly, or rely on a source of energy supply that can be fully decarbonised, such as electricity or district energy. Energy efficiency improvements and electrification can drive a 70% reduction in buildings-related emissions through to 2050, with the remaining reduction coming from behaviour change and on-site renewables.

The purpose of this Roadmap is to identify possible energy-efficient and low-carbon actions and activities that ASEAN Member States (AMS) could consider for implementation by 2025, 2030 and beyond, moving towards net zero-carbon emission buildings. These actions are based on a review of the current buildings sector at the regional level across the seven action areas set out below. While the Roadmap follows the vison of transitioning towards net zero-carbon buildings (in line with the Net Zero by 2050 report), it also acknowledges that different member states have varying national circumstances, targets and priorities in relation to energy-efficient and low-carbon buildings, and each will be configuring its own unique path and pace for the improvements in the buildings sector.

In this Roadmap, net zero-carbon buildings are understood as highly energy-efficient buildings, in which CO2 emissions from all operational energy consumed over the course of a year are balanced out to reach zero through renewable and/or other zero-emission energy supply.1 The Roadmap also outlines possible actions that can reduce emissions associated with building materials that could be considered for the transition towards whole life cycle, net zero-carbon buildings. The Roadmap presents a wide range of policy options that governments could choose from while taking into account their unique context.

This Roadmap should be considered alongside the Roadmap towards Sustainable and Energy-Efficient Space Cooling in ASEAN, which has been developed in parallel. This will ensure that space cooling, as one of the fastest growing electricity-consuming end uses in the region, is approached holistically, including the roles of energy-efficient building fabric, passive design and urban planning and their impacts on sustainable cooling.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are key in the transition of the ASEAN buildings sector

In 2020, energy consumption in buildings accounted for 23% of total final energy consumption in ASEAN, and 23% of total process and energy-related CO2 emissions, or 0.4 gigatonnes of CO2 (Gt CO2).

The 6th ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO6) is one of the flagship publications of the ASEAN Member States prepared by the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) to analyse key aspects of energy trends, policies, socio-economic development and environmental issues related to energy in the region up to 2040. AEO6 shows that if the rates of energy efficiency improvement and renewable energy utilisation are maintained along historical patterns,2 ASEAN’s building energy consumption is expected to grow by around 60% by 2030 and by 120% by 2040, while energy efficiency measures could help to mitigate this growth by at least 20%.

The IEA’s 2019 Southeast Asia Energy Outlook report estimates that under current policy developments ASEAN’s electricity demand for space cooling could quadruple between 2017 and 2040, accompanied by rapidly increasing ownership of air conditioners from less than 20% to potentially more than 60% in 2040.3 This
is likely to cause considerable strain on power systems and increase in GHG emissions if improvements in buildings’ energy efficiency and power sector decarbonisation are not implemented.

The ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II: 2021-2025 (APAEC Phase II) sets out a goal for the AMS to achieve an energy intensity reduction target of 32% by 2025 based on the 2005 level. In the APAEC Phase II, buildings are considered a key sector to support the transition, alongside the goal to achieve the renewable energy share of 23% in total primary energy supply (TPES) and renewable energy share of 35% in power generation by 2025. Buildings can contribute through on-site renewable energy generation.

To meet the goals of APAEC Phase II, ASEAN’s buildings will need to become highly energy-efficient and use primarily zero-carbon energy sources.

Policy development and investment will drive progress towards net zero-carbon

Investing in energy-efficient and low-carbon buildings is a cost-effective way to reduce emissions and the use of fossil fuels, improve air quality and provide many other benefits to households, society and governments. However, a significant scale-up in investment and changes in regulations will help to unlock these potential benefits in ASEAN. The International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) 2019 report on Green Buildings outlines how investment opportunities in green buildings are estimated at USD 17.8 trillion in East Asia and the Pacific and South Asia, representing over 70% of the global total.

Yet, the investment potential remains largely untapped. The status of net zero and low-carbon buildings and the related building energy performance policies and priorities vary greatly across the region, though most AMS have high-level strategies and targets in place for buildings’ energy efficiency. A number of AMS have made progress in developing building energy codes and/or building standards, however, they are not always mandatory and often cover only part of the buildings sector, for example large non-residential buildings. This partial coverage substantially limits their impact on the overall improvement of the buildings sector’s energy performance. Given that building energy codes typically focus on new buildings, the energy performance of existing buildings or of those undergoing major renovation is often not covered by energy efficiency regulation.

Within the ASEAN region, there are ongoing efforts towards regional harmonisation of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for appliances and equipment, which could further enable energy efficiency improvements in the buildings sector. In addition, the Sustainable ASEAN Energy Management
Training and Certification Scheme provides certification for energy managers and the Energy Management Gold Standard – for energy-intensive organisation (building and industry).

Transition towards net zero-carbon buildings offers multiple benefits

Transitioning to a net zero-carbon buildings sector in ASEAN offers multiple benefits beyond energy savings and emissions reductions. By considering multiple benefits, policy makers can tap into several policy areas that can support various societal goals. For example, energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy utilisation in buildings result in lower air pollution and corresponding health improvements. Efficient building envelopes, systems and appliances lower energy bills for households and businesses, while providing required thermal comfort and indoor air quality. Improved building fabric can further reduce heat exposure for building occupants resulting in better health and increased productivity. Energy efficiency also offers job creation potential in high-performance building construction and building operation management, as well as improvements in energy system security and resilience.

The Roadmap paves the way towards net zero-carbon buildings

This Roadmap for Energy-Efficient Buildings and Construction in ASEAN identifies timelines, milestones, actions and activities across seven ‘action areas’. Each of these areas provides a structure that includes a vision, as well as options for actions and activities to support the transition to net zero‑carbon buildings and construction.

Summary policy package towards net zero-carbon buildings in ASEAN

Roadmap For Energy Efficient Buildings And Construction In Asean
Summary policy package towards net zero-carbon buildings in ASEAN
Roadmap For Energy Efficient Buildings And Construction In Asean

Each action area of the Roadmap can be read either in isolation or in conjunction with other parts of the document, depending on the national priorities and resources available for implementation.

While working with this Roadmap it is important to keep in mind several overarching principles:

  • Adaptability – this Roadmap is intended as guidance, not as prescription. The AMS, with their in-depth knowledge of the specific local context, have an opportunity to configure an effective implementation plan based on the Roadmap.
  • Holistic approach – the buildings sector is complex and fragmented. This Roadmap suggests maintaining an integrated view of the sector.
  • Strategic planning – actions outlined in the Roadmap are likely to have a higher impact if they are integrated into existing policy processes and strategic plans, or into newly developed ones.
  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration – effective communication channels and coordination mechanisms between national, subnational and local governments, as well as the involvement of various stakeholder groups, are important for effective implementation of this Roadmap.

The following steps could support the AMS to identify context-specific options for actions to achieve higher levels of energy and carbon performance of buildings in their national context:

  • assessing the context, existing policy environment, socio-economic and other factors relevant to the buildings sector
  • defining institutional configuration with the appointment of a responsible governmental entity to lead the implementation process and other institutions that could be involved in the process
  • establishing a stakeholder engagement process in order to identify priority actions for the buildings sector, taking into account diverse interests of various stakeholder groups
  • developing an implementation plan that sets out actions, activities, responsibilities and timelines, taking into account level of effort, expected impacts and required resources
  • establishing an indicator and data collection framework for monitoring and progress tracking.

Key recommendations of the Roadmap

This section outlines key recommendations across seven action areas that constitute a possible policy package to support transition towards more energy efficient and low-carbon buildings.

An effective policy package covers all seven action areas described above and includes a combination of regulations, incentives and information policy instruments.4

An extensive list of potential policy instruments available to the AMS to support progress on energy-efficient and low-carbon buildings is outlined in this Roadmap. A combination of policy actions is needed to constitute a policy package for net zero-carbon buildings in the AMS. This process could begin by setting ambitious, yet achievable, overarching targets for improving energy efficiency, decarbonising the buildings sector and communicating them to key stakeholder groups.

Regulatory policy instruments are critical elements when developing a policy package.

Building energy codes are among the “most widely recognised, scalable” and effective policy instruments for buildings (Boza-Kiss, Moles-Grueso and Urge-Vorsatz, 2013). They are implemented in over 80 countries. Mandatory MEPS and labels for key appliances and equipment used in buildings are other fundamental policy instruments with proven effectiveness: implemented in over 120 countries around the world, MEPS and labels “have helped more than halve the energy consumption of major appliances in countries with the longest-running programmes”.

Once regulatory policies are in place, their effective implementation and enforcement could be supported by information policy instruments and incentives to ensure compliance and further progress. Building certification and labelling with ratings based on energy and carbon performance of buildings can provide clear signals for consumers, property developers and other practitioners in the construction industry, to encourage more informed and sustainable choices and practices.

A range of financial and non-financial incentives could be linked to the certification schemes to support the building and construction industry to adapt to the regulation at early stages of adoption, and to help overcome market barriers such as upfront cost and access to capital, as well as to drive action beyond minimum standards.

Finally, capacity building programmes are crucial to ensuring that there are sufficient skills and knowledge on various aspects of net zero-carbon buildings, as well as well an adequate number of local qualified experts and practitioners.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), consisting of the 10 AMS, has a great variety of national circumstances in political, economic, environmental and social spheres. This regional Roadmap acknowledges that every AMS has its unique context in the buildings sector and beyond. While the Roadmap offers a comprehensive “menu” of actions, each government can develop a suite of actions and possible approaches suitable to its country context and sufficiently ambitious to follow the pathway towards a net zero- carbon buildings sector. Moreover, the milestones outlined in the Roadmap for policy progress at different points in the future are intended as indicative, and do not suggest a specific commitment for every AMS.