GlobalABC Regional Roadmap for Buildings and Construction in Asia 2020-2050

Towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector
In this report

The GlobalABC Roadmap for Buildings and Construction in Asia sets out targets and timelines towards achieving zero emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction between 2020 and 2050 in Asia. The Roadmap covers eight themes: urban planning, new buildings, existing buildings, building operations, appliances and systems, materials, resilience, and clean energy. For each of these themes, priority actions related to policy and technology are identified. Other enabling activities include capacity building and finance. This Roadmap was developed in collaboration with the GlobalABC and UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Several hundred building sector actors from across the region participated through consultations in webinars, questionnaires and workshops.

Executive summary

With the Paris Agreement countries have agreed to a common goal of maintaining the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees, and preferably no more than 1.5 degrees, by the end of the century. According to the latest UNEP Emissions Gap report, to be on track for the 1.5 degree goal, the world needs to reduce global emissions by over 50% by 2030 and work towards carbon neutrality by 2050. As the buildings and construction sector accounted for 36% of final energy use and 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, globally, in 2018, it will have to play a major part in achieving this vision.

In 2018, the buildings sector in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the People's Republic of China (hereafter “China”) and India accounted for 27% of final energy use and 24% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, excluding emissions from manufacturing building materials 1. Since 2010, growth in energy demand has been driven by a 7% increase in regional population and a 70% increase in wealth (gross domestic product [GDP]), which has in turn increased demand for floor area and energy consuming services. Continued floor area growth is expected in the region which could represent nearly half of the new construction in the world by 2040 2.

Decarbonising buildings across the entire life cycle would require a transformation of the buildings and construction sector. Reaching net-zero operational and embodied carbon emission buildings is possible, but requires clear and ambitious policy signals to drive a range of measures including passive building design, material efficiency, low-carbon materials, efficient building envelope measures, and highly efficient lighting and appliances. 

According to the World Energy Outlook, energy efficiency and the decarbonisation of electricity in Asia under a Sustainable Development Scenario 3 could reduce annual emissions from buildings in 2040 by almost 3 000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) compared to a Stated Policies Scenario 4, 1. Material efficiency could bring significant additional reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the material lifecycle of buildings, with potential reductions of over 80% in China and 50% in India for residential buildings 5.

Achieving these outcomes at pace and scale will require greater collaboration among policy makers at all jurisdictional levels, as well as with urban planners, architects, developers, investors, construction companies and utility companies. In addition to providing healthier, more resilient and more productive environments, the decarbonisation of the buildings sector presents a business opportunity in East Asia Pacific and South Asia with an estimated value of approximately USD 17.8 trillion by 2030 6. Decarbonising buildings is also in full alignment with the aims of SDG 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. 

Across the Asian region, however, progress on building energy codes is not keeping up with the considerable growth in demand for new buildings. Less than half of countries in Asia have mandatory or voluntary building codes or certification programmes in place (Figure 1). 

Figure 1 •    Building codes in Asia, 2017-18

Building Codes 2020 Cropped

IEA 2020. All rights reserved. These maps are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries, and to the name of any territory, city or area.

The purpose of this roadmap is to support a common language and vision for the complete decarbonisation of buildings across their life cycle and to support the development of national or subnational strategies and policies, including for example, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). It outlines the range of actions that stakeholders can take in the short, medium and long term to achieve a built environment that is zero-emission, efficient and resilient.

It covers eight “activities”: urban planning, new buildings, existing buildings, building operations, appliances and systems, materials, resilience and clean energy, and for each of these proposes key actions, targets for policies and technologies, and enabling measures with the aspiration of reaching net-zero carbon emission buildings by 2050.

The Asia Roadmap builds on consultation with over 200 stakeholders and buildings experts across the region who provided input to collectively build the timelines across the eight activities.

The timelines below describe the actions identified by stakeholders as being key to delivering zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings in Asia by 2050. The chapters “Activities 1-8” and “Roadmap support: Enablers” develop the strategies that support the delivery of these objectives.

Figure 2 • Asia roadmap summary timelines

Asia Summary For Print Revised 02
Key actions and strategy

To support decarbonising new and existing buildings, effective policies and regulations need to cover the entire building lifecycle, including the design, development, operation and decommissioning stages, and also act beyond site boundaries through neighbourhood planning and clean energy. To accelerate action, greater collaboration involving a range of stakeholders is needed, including policy makers, urban planners, architects, construction companies, materials suppliers, utility companies, developers and investors.

Based on extensive stakeholder consultation and analysis, the following actions would need to be undertaken in order to achieve progress towards zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings.

National ministries and city agencies should develop ambitious, comprehensive strategies and roadmaps to outline the pathway to a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector. These strategies should be developed through consultation and engagement that brings in a range of disciplines of urban planning, building design and construction, materials, resilience and clean energy. These strategies should focus on early action due to the current high construction rates in Asia and address the data and ambition gaps identified in this roadmap.

Governments and industry coalitions should work to close key information gaps on building performance by establishing data collection systems and methodologies, particularly given the large number of high-density developments constructed across the region. Such data can provide essential evidence to inform decarbonisation and efficiency planning and underpin the quantifiable benefits of efficiency and sustainability interventions.

Ministries should develop national and local renovation and financing strategies to accelerate implementation and achievement of decarbonisation and energy savings goals, such as increasing the annual energy efficiency renovation rate to 2% by 2040.

Local and regional government agencies should undertake risk mapping and resilience assessment and develop integrated strategies to improve the resilience of the building stock. The region is at high risk of sub-tropical climate events and fast-growing centres require strategies to address resilience risks in new building developments and informal settlements. Such actions should also map and develop strategies for adapting existing buildings to mitigate against extreme climate events and changes in climatic conditions.

Regulators can reduce future energy demand in new buildings through progressive mandatory energy codes that in particular focus on adopting standards for building fabric performance, and include replicable and locally adapted strategies for mitigating cooling demand, such as passive design, natural ventilation, insulation, shading, and low-emissivity windows.

Regulators should develop and expand minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) to set ambitious product energy performance requirements covering all major appliances and systems. MEPS in the region can be further integrated and aligned to support collaboration across the region to enable cross-border applicability.

City-level actors should collaborate across sectors and government levels to manage the considerable growth in large urban centres to develop integrated urban planning policies and frameworks that address equitable and sustainable land use, transit-oriented design, accessible greenspace, climate resilience and district clean energy planning.

National and local agencies should develop ambitious regulatory and incentive frameworks to increase investment in energy efficiency improvements or reduce carbon emissions from the production of major building materials.

National and local agencies should develop clear regulatory and incentive frameworks to promote the use of on-site and building-integrated renewable energy, including solar PV, solar thermal, geothermal, micro-wind and advanced biofuels where appropriate. Frameworks should define the operational framework, incentives, and integration mechanisms at the national and local level.

National governments should raise the level of ambition in narratives and quantitative targets on actions that support zero carbon emission building performance and construction methods. Building collective efforts to respond to the challenge of improving the new and existing buildings across Asia needs to align with the scale of construction activities and ambitious social and economic change across the region.

Governments and large organisations can take leadership in zero-carbon procurement and standards to promote investment in low-carbon building construction and renovation among their headquarters and building stock and encourage adoption of efficient technologies at scale.

Governments should promote the use of regular energy performance auditing and data collection to ensure the effectiveness and performance of building energy performance interventions and encourage active engagement with building rating schemes.

Governments and industry coalitions should promote opportunities for capacity building on topics like embedding circular economy concepts into buildings through life-cycle approaches, data collection for efficiency improvement, reuse of construction materials, and phasing out high global warming potential refrigerants.

Finally, government and industry coalitions should promote the adoption of existing efficient building construction and operation techniques and low-cost technologies that can improve building performance and lower embodied carbon.

Address key information gaps by collecting data and evidence to support actions to decarbonise and improve the efficiency of buildings. Across Asia, information was found to be lacking on integrated and spatial urban planning policies and activities, informal development activities, the use of space and water heating technologies, use of smart devices, the carbon content of materials; risk mapping; and decentralised renewables deployment. Putting in place systems to capture this information will allow for greater certainty around the impacts that policies and markets are having.

Raise the level of ambition on actions that can support improved building performance and construction methods that matches the scale of development change. There is a reported lack of ambition in advancing the use of spatial planning approaches, bioclimatic design principles and low-energy building system technologies; building code adoption and compliance; building labelling and benchmarking; use of audit and building management tools; and integrated building renewables. Increasing effort to respond to the challenge of improving the new and existing buildings across Asia needs to align with the ambitious construction activities and the scale of social and economic change across the region.

  1. IEA (International Energy Agency) (2019a). World Energy Outlook 2019. Paris: IEA. doi:

  2. OECD/IPEEC (International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation) (2018). Zero Energy Building Definitions and Policy Activity: An International Review. Retrieved from

  3. As well as meeting the energy-related UNFCC Sustainable Development Goals in full, the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement, holding the global average temperature rise to below 1.8°C with a 66% probability without reliance on global net-negative CO2 emissions.

  4. The Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) reflects the impact of existing policy frameworks and today’s announced policy intentions.

  5. IRP (International Resource Panel) (2020). Resource Efficiency and Climate Change: Material Efficiency Strategies for a Low-Carbon Future. Hertwich, E., Lifset, R., Ali, S., Pauliuk, S., Heeren, Tu, Q. A report of the International Resource Panel Nairobi:. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Retrieved from

  6. IFC (International Finance Corporation). (2019). Green Buildings: A Finance and Policy Blueprint for Emerging Markets. Washington, D.C.: International Finance Corporation. Retrieved from

  7. Figures sources:

    Full references for the data behind IEA figures and/or tables featured on this page can be found in the PDF of the full report. 

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