The Unsustainable Direction of Green Building Codes: A Critical Look at the Future of Green Architecture

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Buildings are a major contributor to global energy consumption and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. In light of the climate crisis, changes in the way we design, construct and use buildings are needed to reduce their environmental impact. Green Building Codes (GBCs) and rating systems have been developed around the world as a basis for green building practices. However, several studies raised doubts about the actual performance of certified buildings. Moreover, they use a per unit area approach to assess the use of resources rather than per capita, penalizing small buildings or those with high occupancy, ignoring the concepts of equity and shared common effort which are central to sustainable design. In this paper we propose adjustments to GBCs to encourage new ways of designing and evaluating green buildings. We introduce the Occupancy Correction Factor (OCF) which prioritizes smaller and more densely occupied buildings reducing land use, total operational energy consumption and embodied energy. Results show changes in their energy ratings of one to three levels both up and down, compared to their original ratings. In addition, we propose the prioritization of high-efficiency Low-Energy and Nearly Zero-Energy buildings over Net Zero Energy buildings, encouraging innovative urban design to enhance solar access and electricity production potential on-site or nearby.

Original languageEnglish
Article number773
Issue number6
StatePublished - 6 Jun 2022


  • Green Building Codes
  • Zero Energy buildings
  • energy use
  • green architecture
  • occupancy
  • per capita resource consumption
  • sustainable design
  • well-being

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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