Achieving the climate change targets for the global buildings sector: A techno-socioeconomic pathway

  • Bashar Al Shawa

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


It is often assumed that on-going efficiency improvements will eventually lead to a ‘decoupling’ between our growing activities on this planet and the adverse environmental effect of these activities. This thesis first examines this presupposition within the buildings sector by taking it to its logical extreme – i.e., reductio ad absurdum. Accordingly, the possibility of achieving the sector’s required energy reduction for a 2°C climate change trajectory is examined, based on the optimistic scenario that all newly constructed buildings worldwide will have state-of-the-art energy efficiency levels – i.e., those of LEED or Passivhaus – and that all existing buildings will be retrofitted to current best practices. To that end, a novel dynamic building stock model is developed which includes 138 countries representing 96% of global buildings energy consumption, and covering the period 2017 to 2060. The model shows that such scenario is unable to achieve the required reductions. The thesis implicates the sector’s growth for this failing, arguing that building energy codes must be reverse-engineered from global targets. Subsequently, the model is further developed and devises the required energy use intensities (EUIs – kWh/m2•year) for each of the 138 countries so that the sector’s 2°C and below 2°C targets are met. Lastly, an econometric model is developed which envisions a novel and socially progressive tariff structure for each country, so that the proposed EUIs are attained in practice and not driven upwards by socioeconomic phenomena. The proposed tariff was able to theoretically eliminate the rebound effect – in comparison with a rebound of 34-55% under a conventional tariff – whilst also eradicating energy poverty within the residential sector. This thesis provides important insights for policy makers on the necessary efficiency levels for the transition towards a sustainable built environment, as well as the means to ensure that that transition is socially-just.
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTristan Kershaw (Supervisor) & Sukumar Natarajan (Supervisor)


  • Urban energy
  • Building stock model
  • Building energy policy
  • Econometric model
  • Sustainable Design
  • sustainable development
  • Degrowth
  • Climate Change
  • Climate justice

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