news | 2021-05-20
3 floor appartment bulding white walls and a blue skye.

Systematic map of determinants of buildings' energy demand and CO2 emissions shows need for decoupling

Researchers have carried out a mapping study targeting factors that affect energy needs and the carbon footprint of buildings. The study would seem to indicate that until now there has been little significant decoupling between economic growth and environmental impact. It is also clear that research around this issue has been skewed, both geographically and in terms of content. Most of the articles studied deal with electricity and water usage in North America and the EU. A mere five per cent focus on climate emissions from buildings.

The study has scrutinized more than 4,000 scientific articles in various databases and extracted relevant data. This has resulted in an online map showing geographical coverage, trends, and knowledge lacunae in the scientific material.

– This kind of mapping clearly indicates areas where knowledge is lacking. There is significant geographical disparity between different parts of the world and the variables that have been studied, says Érika Mata, researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

More than half of the articles we have studied, 57 per cent, focus on electricity and water usage in North America and Europe, and 27 per cent on Asia. Five per cent of the articles focus on Africa and seven per cent on Latin America and the Caribbean. Surprisingly few articles, five per cent, focus on greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and only one (1) percent have adopted a life cycle perspective.

– Life cycle perspectives are important because they show where in the construction chain emissions are greatest and what measures need to be taken, for example in the manufacture of building materials, says Érika Mata.

The principal factors affecting the energy use and climate emissions from buildings are income levels, energy prices, and outdoor temperatures, but also population size and the prevailing housing situation. The study shows that improved living standards lead to increased energy use and that until now there has been no decoupling between these two parameters.

– If we are to succeed in restructuring the construction sector in line with climate goals, a decoupling between economic growth and environmental impact is vital, says Érika Mata

Read the scientific study. External link, opens in new window.

For more information, please contact:
Érika Mata,, +46 (0)10-788 68 39

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Last updated: 2021-10-04

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

About IVL

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute has a wide environmental profile. We combine applied research and development with close collaboration between industry and the public sphere. Our consultancy is evidence-based, and our research is characterized by interdisciplinary science and system thinking.


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