GlobalABC Roadmap for Buildings and Construction 2020-2050

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

About this report

The Global Roadmap for Buildings and Construction sets out targets and timelines towards achieving zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction between 2020 and 2050. The roadmap covers 8 themes, including 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. This roadmap was developed in collaboration with the GlobalABC and UN Environment Programme.
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.

However, in 2018, buildings-related CO2 emissions rose for the second year in a row, to an all-time high of 9.7 Gt CO2 (GlobalABC/IEA/UNEP, 2019). Rapid increases in floor area and demand for energy-consuming services are driving this growth, outpacing efficiency improvements and the decarbonisation of electricity and heat. At present, mandatory policies on building and equipment performance cover less than 40% of energy use and less than half the CO2 emissions from buildings. Progress on building energy codes, in particular, is lagging, as more than two-thirds of the buildings constructed between now and 2050 are expected to be built in countries lacking building energy codes (IEA, 2017). 

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 (IEA, 2019a), cost-effective, proven, energy efficiency and decarbonisation measures in buildings could contribute over 6.5 Gt CO2 reductions in annual emissions by 2040, compared to the current course of action under the Stated Policies Scenario. Reductions in emissions from buildings represent one-third of the total reductions required to align with the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (IEA, 2019a). This Scenario is designed to achieve the outcomes of the UN Sustainable Development Goals most closely related to energy: to achieve universal access to energy (SDG 7), to reduce the severe health impacts of air pollution (part of SDG 3) and to tackle climate change (SDG 13).

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 emerging markets with an estimated value of approximately USD 24.7 trillion by 2030 (IFC, 2019). Decarbonising buildings is also in full alignment with the aims of SDG 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. 

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 Global Roadmap builds on consultation with over 700 stakeholders and buildings experts around the world who provided input to collectively build the timelines across the eight buildings and construction activities.

The IEA and the GlobalABC have also developed a series of regional roadmaps to identify region-specific priority actions and pathways: the GlobalABC Regional Roadmaps for Buildings and Construction for Africa, for Asia and for Latin America. 

Getting to zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings by 2050

The timelines below describe the actions identified by stakeholders as being key to delivering zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings by 2050. 

Roadmap summary timelines, 2020-2050

Global Roadmap Summary Forglobalabc Roadmap For Buildings And Construction 2020 2050
Roadmap summary timelines, 2020-2050
Global Roadmap Summary Forglobalabc Roadmap For Buildings And Construction 2020 2050

The Roadmap chapters “Activities 1-8” and the chapter on “Roadmap support: Enablers” develop the strategies that could support delivering these long-term objectives. 

Key actions

To support decarbonising new and existing buildings, effective policies and regulations need to cover the entire building life cycle, 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 roadmaps and strategies set priorities for the sector

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 should be developed through consultation and engagement, address the multiple dimensions of urban planning, new and existing buildings and their operation, appliances and systems, embodied carbon of materials, resilience and clean energy. 

Governments should partner with key stakeholders to develop metrics which include energy performance benchmarks and sector targets and data collection mechanisms that include the use of materials with low-embodied carbon, building energy performance, building ratings systems, and building resilience.

Governments and industry coalitions should work to close key information gaps by establishing data collection systems and methodologies which can provide essential evidence to inform decarbonisation and efficiency planning, as well as highlight the concrete, quantifiable benefits of efficiency and sustainability interventions.

Local agencies should undertake risk mapping and resilience assessment and develop integrated strategies to improve the resilience of the building stock and develop strategies to address resilience risks in new building developments to inform zoning and building performance standards.

Standards and codes gradually drive up performance

Regulators should develop or expand Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) to set ambitious product energy performance requirements which cover all major appliances and systems. MEPS could be especially effective if developed in collaboration across regions to enable cross-border applicability. To support energy efficient purchasing decisions, regulators should implement voluntary and mandatory energy ratings and labelling programmes.

Regulatory frameworks to facilitate integrated action

City-level actors should collaborate across sectors and government levels to develop integrated urban planning policies and frameworks that address land-use efficiency, transit-oriented design, access to green spaces, resilience, and district clean energy planning. 

National and local agencies should develop ambitious regulatory and incentive frameworks to increase investment in energy efficiency improvements and 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 photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, geothermal, micro-wind and advanced biofuels, where appropriate. 

Narratives and engagement to drive demand

National and subnational governments, industry coalitions and civil society should promote the multiple benefits that zero-emission, energy efficient and resilient buildings have for different stakeholders. 

National and subnational governments and large organisations can take leadership in zero-carbon procurement and standards to promote investment in low-carbon building construction and renovation and encourage adoption of efficient technologies at scale.

Governments and industry coalitions should craft narratives that promote good practices, such as the use of digital information systems for building operations and energy use, effective data collection, or the use of traditional low-carbon materials.

Capacity building

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

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. 

  1. GlobalABC/IEA/UNEP (2019). Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction. Retrieved from

  2. IEA (2017). Energy Technology Perspectives 2017 – Catalysing Energy Technology Transformations,  HYPERLINK ""

  3. IEA (2019a). World Energy Outlook 2019. Retrieved from

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

  5. 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.

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