Three Paths, Three Continents: How Shenzhen, Buenos Aires and Kiev Are Lowering Energy Consumption in Their Buildings

By prioritizing energy efficiency in its own public buildings, the city of Buenos Aires is setting an example for building performance across Argentina. Photo by David Berkowitz/Flickr.

Shenzhen, Buenos Aires and Kiev’s experiences pursuing energy efficiency demonstrate that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to achieving better buildings. Each found a unique path to improve energy efficiency for a more sustainable and prosperous city.

Shenzhen Goes Above and Beyond National Building Standards

A decade ago, the southeastern Chinese city of Shenzhen was facing some very discouraging statistics. The city’s buildings were using nearly twice as much energy per square meter as those in Shanghai or Beijing and three times as much as those in developed countries. Voluntary building energy efficiency standards had been in place for three years but few developers spent the extra money on energy-saving design or equipment options. Shenzhen  decided to create new mandatory efficiency standards in November of 2006 that went above and beyond the then current national Chinese energy efficiency standards, making the city the first in China to release its own regulations for energy efficiency in buildings. These mandatory green building standards applied to affordable housing projects and required that all new housing projects be inspected to ensure they met standards and stricter energy reduction goals.

Shenzhen set energy conservation targets for various sectors, including a 15 percent reduction in public and office buildings, 20 percent for government buildings and a 50 percent reduction for energy use in newly constructed buildings. These building energy conservation goals represented 49 percent of Shenzhen’s total energy conservation targets in 2008 and helped put Shenzhen on the map as a model for other cities.

In May 2007, Shenzhen’s government launched a low-carbon eco-district, called the Guangming New Area, which promotes energy efficient industrial practices and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007, Guangming New Area was selected as China’s first Green Building Demonstration District to promote the idea of green buildings and energy efficiency to the rest of the country.

Buenos Aires Analyzes Energy Consumption Patterns to Set Goals

Like Shenzhen, Buenos Aires found itself challenged by poor efficiency in most of its buildings. The Argentinean capital lacked knowledge about the available solutions that could be used in its public buildings. To overcome this knowledge gap, the Environmental Protection Agency of Buenos Aires enacted the Program of Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings (PEEEP), which analyzes and monitors energy consumption patterns from five different public building types. PEEP gave the local government the data and clarity required to develop energy reduction policies.

Launched in 2008, PEEP was created with the goal of optimizing energy consumption in public buildings and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To participate, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that participating buildings implement a number of measures, including energy audits, energy management tools and improvements to building operation and maintenance procedures.

The information gathered from PEEP was used by policymakers to draft the Energy Efficiency law, which was approved by the city council in 2009. The law has established guidelines for energy efficiency and mandates the adoption of energy efficiency measures in all public buildings. The law also requires that at least 50 percent of the savings generated from improved efficiency will be used to fund educational programs on energy efficiency. Other local governments in Argentina are now looking to the example set by Buenos Aires to establish similar programs.

Kiev Retrofits 1,270 Public Buildings

In the early 1990s, Kiev, Ukraine’s capital and largest city, was facing problems common to building efficiency: lack of funding, direction and awareness. After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine’s low retail energy prices and lack of energy conservation policies contributed to overall inefficiency. Ukraine’s economy was one of the most energy intensive in the world.

Starting in the late 1990s, Kiev’s local government started to address inefficient energy usage by implementing energy tariff reforms, including better metering and consumption-based billing for consumers. This allowed heat tariffs to be set at cost-recovery levels, providing economic incentives for consumers to reduce their use and acclimated Kiev residents to programs designed to improve energy efficiency. From 2000 to 2005, the Kiev City State Administration (KSCA) established the Kiev Public Buildings Energy Efficiency Project. Financed through a World Bank loan, a Swedish Government grant and KCSA funds, the project successfully retrofitted 1,270 public buildings in the city, including healthcare, educational and cultural facilities.

Savings from the retrofits were estimated at 333,423 Gigacalories, or about 26 percent of original heat consumption. The upgrades also improved building comfort levels, helped foster an energy efficiency services industry and raised public awareness of the importance of energy efficiency. Kiev’s retrofitting project is an example of how a city can benefit from partnerships both nationally and globally to find solutions to local problems.

There’s More than One Path to an Energy Efficient City

Shenzhen, Buenos Aires and Kiev are three examples of cities that have overcome a lack of technical knowledge, limited awareness of the options available and uncertainty about how to measure or understand building performance. These stories demonstrate just a few of the paths that a city can take to become a leader in energy efficiency. What path will your city take?

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