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Buildings and Construction: A Sleeping Giant for Climate Action




  • Future proofing buildings and construction is among the most cost-effective measures to combat climate change.
  • The International Energy Agency estimates that realizing the potential of sustainable buildings will save USD 1.1 trillion by 2050, but the transition will require a shift in the USD 4.5 trillion that is invested into real estate each year.
  • The lead-up to COP 26 has the potential to raise ambition and wake this sleeping giant.

By Christiana Hageneder, is the Head of Secretariat, Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (PEEB).

In the building sector, all trends are pointing upwards, with dramatic consequences for the climate. By 2060, the global building floor area is expected to double. Emerging and developing economies in warm and tropical climates will experience the biggest increase.

Already today, the construction and operation of buildings is responsible for 40% of all energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The sector consumes over a third of global final energy. Energy demand from the building sector is expected to grow by another 50% by 2050. Space cooling is a key driver of this demand – energy needs for space cooling are expected to triple.

Buildings cause greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions both when they are built, and over their long lifetime of 30 to 80 years. Our modern way of constructing is mostly based on concrete, using standard blueprints regardless of the climate. This leads to high energy bills for those who can afford it, and economic and health risks for those who cannot.

Future-proofing Buildings Can Drive SDGs 1, 7, 11

Energy-efficient buildings are not rocket science. Improvements in the building’s outer structure and appliances can achieve substantial energy savings compared to standard buildings. Measures to future-proof buildings can range from “low-tech,” such as painting roofs in light colors and ensuring natural shade, to digital solutions for building design and management. Additional macro-economic benefits include energy security, job creation and health. And from a business perspective future proofed buildings have a lower lifetime cost and higher asset values.

Climate action in buildings and construction is among the most cost-effective measures. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that realizing the potential of sustainable buildings will save USD 1.1 trillion by 2050.

Nevertheless, this transition requires a shift in investment. USD 4.5 trillion are invested into real estate every year. To channel this investment towards energy efficiency, we need to influence it from two directions: ambitious policy and regulation serving as a “stick,” and financing as a “carrot.”

The Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (PEEB), a French-German initiative, works with its first five partner countries – Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Vietnam – to transform the building sector. PEEB combines financing energy efficiency in large-scale projects with technical assistance through policy advice. PEEB mobilizes innovative financing solutions for large building projects. For example, in Morocco PEEB supports the government in mobilising EUR 20 million in climate financing for a residential housing programme. A green loan programme for young families is in the making in Vietnam. The programme also works with partners to make policies and standards more ambitious and effective, through better enforcement of existing green building codes or setting standards for sectors like hotels or hospitals.

All of these advancements are helping to achieve 2030 Agenda targets on energy, housing and poverty.

Climate Action in the Building Sector is Gaining Momentum

Another international agreement – the Paris Agreement on climate change – also hangs in the balance; its goals will not be achieved without a climate focus for buildings in the new decade. A rapid decarbonization needs to happen in the building sector, driven by international and national actors.

In 2019, action on buildings took center stage. Led by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), buildings featured prominently at the climate change conference COP25 in Madrid, with topics ranging from zero carbon buildings to circular economy approaches in the buildings sector. The Global Status Report on Buildings and Construction confirmed the urgent need for action in the building sector. At the Climate Action Summit convened by the United Nations in September 2019, the Net Zero Carbon initiative was launched to leverage the leadership of governments, industry and civil society to commit to ambitious targets and mobilize funding. The Cool Coalition and SEforALL’s Cooling for All initiative have incorporated buildings as a key element of their strategies.

As we head into 2020, buildings are high on the agenda. The World Economic Forum has named moving towards zero carbon buildings as one of its four top priorities for tackling climate change. The report by the UK government on energy transitions features buildings as a key sector. The lead-up to the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26) in 2020 has an unprecedented opportunity to raise the ambition of all actors to make our buildings future-proof and wake this sleeping giant.

The author of this guest article, Christiana Hageneder, is the Head of Secretariat, Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (PEEB).


Head of Secretariat, Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (PEEB)
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Energy and Transportation

Tips for You to “Save the Planet”



The climate crisis is scary. What can we do to get governments and businesses to take the necessary action? What changes can we make to our lifestyles to have a practical, meaningful impact? Here are Cambridge Youth Strikers 4 Climate with some ideas for you!

How to Fight the Climate Crisis from Home

The crisis of the virus doesn’t stop the crisis of the climate! Here are 5 actions you can take to tackle climate change without leaving your house!

How to Fight Air Pollution

Air pollution is clogging up our environment. Here are 3 ways to help the fight for clean air!

Further reading: Take action against air pollution

How to Stay Cool AND Sustainable

Getting too hot in the summer? Don’t want to harm the environment? Here are 5 ways to enjoy to keep cool with the environment!

Further reading: Eco friendly plants

How to Save Energy at Home

More energy comes from your home than you might think. Here are 6 ways to tackle climate change from indoors!

Further reading:

How to Organise a Strike

When our world leaders and corporations are failing to take the action needed to fight the climate crisis, how do you organise a successful protest or strike for the climate? Youth Striker Junayd shares tips from our experience!

How to set up an eco club at your school

In this video, we talk about in-school actions, specifically starting up an eco club and things you can do with that eco club.

Further reading: Eco Schools website

Cambridge Schools Eco Council

The Cambridge Schools Eco Council are an organisation run by children to demand climate justice in Cambridge and around the world. They organise the Cambridge YouthStrikes4Climate, take part in community events, work to educate locals both young and old and meet with businesses and politicians to find constructive ways to save the planet.

Source: Earth Optimism Cambridge

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Taking Small Steps For Green Tech Investment



As a small business without the resources and expertise of the large corporates, it can at times feel like a real challenge to make changes that you feel will have a meaningful impact on our planet. Over the years we have developed a mindset of taking what small steps we can in the hope that alongside others, who are hopefully adopting a similar approach, our collective efforts start to make a big difference.

Some of the steps we have taken have involved investment, others have simply required the dedication and inclination to drive through change in our organisation. Providing that sustainability remains at the forefront of your decision making you will very quickly start to see the impact of your small changes adding up.

In this section we have shared with you a handful of things that you could do at home or in your business which will have a meaningful and positive impact for our natural world.

Green Tech Investment:

The green tech sector is booming right now across the UK and many other parts of the world, however if this is not your thing then the whole process can feel quite daunting. Below are a few simple ideas which we have deployed across our nurseries which have reduced our carbon footprint as a result.

  • Solar Panel Installation – Through the installation of solar panels you can self-generate a percentage of your energy demand on site. Although the lucrative tariffs (Feed in Tariff) to generate electricity are no longer available via suppliers, return on investment can be achieved in reasonable time frames whilst reducing the demand for electricity. generation from the central grid. Through the installation of solar panels at both of our sites we currently generate on average between 30 – 35% of our annual demand each year.
  • Renewable Electricity Supply – Switch to a renewable energy supplier. Although currently slightly more expensive than standard electricity supply generated by traditional fossil fuel generation the additional premium you pay offers peace of mind that the electricity you are consuming has a significantly lower impact on the environment. Jigsaw became carbon neutral from an electricity perspective in December 2020.
  • Energy Efficient Boiler Upgrades – If your building is currently running its hot water or heating on an old non-condensing boiler there can be very reasonable savings, both energy & monetary by upgrading to a modern condensing boiler which utilises the heat and your system more effectively.
  • L.E.D Light Upgrades – L.E.D lights are widely acknowledged as a far more efficient way of lighting your building. With the installation of L.E.D fittings or bulbs you can significantly reduce the amount of energy that you are using which not only results in lower costs but lower carbon impact on the environment also.
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Units & Electric Minibus – Both the UK government and the major car manufacturers have publicly declared their commitment to moving towards an electrified transport system driven by green energy. By purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle you are supporting this transition and contributing heavily to the reduction of heavy fossil fuel emissions from traditional petrol or diesel powered engines. Jigsaw are currently awaiting delivery of a fully electric mini-bus which will be used to transport our children on educational visits. In readiness for this and in support of our move towards a carbon free transport system we have also installed electric charging points at our sites which will utilise the energy we are generating on site via our solar panel installation.

Plastic Free Status:

‘Surfers Against Sewage’, are a grassroots movement that have grown into one of the UK’s most active and successful environmental charities.

‘SAS’ have developed an educational programme aimed at eradicating the unnecessary use of single use plastic from the grounds of schools and day nurseries across the UK. The process involves identifying the areas in which singles use plastics are used within your organisation and exploring viable alternatives to eradicate them.

Examples of some of the changes we have made, which you may also be able to implement, have been detailed below.

  • Hygiene Processes – We moved from single use hygiene aprons (Used for nappy changing & mealtimes) to washable material aprons which was a reduction of around 95,000 single use aprons per year across both nurseries.
  • Food Supply Chain – We changed our fruit and vegetable supplier for a provider who had a more sustainable approach to food packing. The change resulted in a reduction of around 90% of single use plastic packaging related to our food order.
  • Educational Materials – We have removed all single use plastic art / teaching materials from our resource cupboards across both sites (Sequins / glitter etc).
  • Plastic Bag Reduction – When sending items home with pupils we ensure we do so in re-usable hessian bags provided by the nursery free of charge.
  • Food Preparation – Clingfilm has been fully removed from the nursery with sustainable alternatives replacing it.
  • Avoidance Mindset – When purchasing new materials & equipment for the nurseries we ensure we avoid plastic when a suitable alternative is available.

In addition to the changes implemented across the nurseries we also carry out regular ‘beach cleans’ with our holiday club and Pre School children.

To find out more information on how to reduce and eradicate single use plastics within your home or organisation please visit:

One Tree Planted Partnership:

One Tree Planted is a non-profit organisation with a focus on global reforestation. As an environmental charity they are dedicated to making it easier for individuals and businesses to give back to the environment by planting trees.

Setting up an account and becoming a partner could not be easier. There are no minimum donation requirements and no pressure. With each single tree donation costing as little as $1, One Tree Planted has proved to be a fantastic vehicle for us to support reforestation programmes in a manner that works for a small family business.

So far, we have planted over 1250 trees in regions including the Amazon Rainforest, a region of Uganda which is home to a declining population of chimpanzees linked to deforestation, Ethiopia supporting key economic projects and finally in Australia as the region looks to recover from one of the largest natural disasters in modern history.

Moving forward, for every new child that registers with the nurseries we have committed to planting 10 trees.

To find out more information about this please visit:

The Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Award:

The Woodland Trust Green Tree Schools Award encourages outdoor learning and inspires pupils about trees, woods, and wildlife. Through the award schools and nurseries can take part in fun, practical projects while helping the environment and improving their grounds. The award scheme is free, and the Woodland Trust provide resources and support to guide you through the process.

We currently hold Gold status and have very recently submitted our evidence for the prestigious platinum award.

To find out more information please visit:

3rd World Hope Partnership:

For over 12 years now Jigsaw have been a main partner of the charity 3rd World Hope.

3rd World hope is a UK registered charity which focuses activity on supporting remote communities in Malawi by developing infrastructure and facilities which support stability and growth in these areas.

Through our partnership with 3rd World Hope we regularly send parcels to Malawi, encouraging our parents to upcycle toys and clothes that are still in good condition which they no longer use at home.

As an organisation maybe you could look to establish clothes or toy banks at varying points in the year which could be donated to a good cause either here in the UK or in the developing world.

As an individual you could also look to support a local charity by ensuring that your unused items are re-purposed rather than simply visiting the local tip.

For more information on the great work that is happening at 3rd World Hope please visit:

Jigsaw Forest School:

In 2017 Jigsaw became the first Day Nursery in the UK to gain Forest School accreditation with the Forest School Association. Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process that offers opportunities for holistic growth in a natural setting. Forest School is built upon 6 key principles with 1 of those principles being a lifelong relationship between the learner and the natural world.

Although not a specific requirement we have ensured that our Forest School is 100% sustainably sustained. Absolutely every single item in our Forest School has been upcycled in some shape or another, from old wooden bed frames that now serve as pirate ships to old pots and pans that are hugely popular in our mud kitchen. It also home to many of the tree’s that we have planted as part of our Woodland Trust Green Schools partnership.

A Forest School is a such a wonderful environment in which to educate young people in a sustainable, non-traditional manner and we would love to see this provision become more widely available across the country.

As an individual why not look to bring a little bit of the Forest School ethos to your back garden? With a little bit of upcycling and a good dose of creativity and imagination you can very quickly make quite an impact even in a small space. The internet is full of great ideas and resources are all around you, all you need is that spark to make it happen and your children will have access to hours of outdoor, natural fun.

If you are an educator working at a school or nursery that does not currently offer Forest School, maybe now is the time to approach your head teacher or manager with a view to being the catalyst to getting things moving.

For more information on the Forest School Association or to find a provider near you please visit:


Founded in 1999, Jigsaw is a small, family-owned Children’s Day Nursery group based in Chester, UK.

Caring for the environment and our natural world is a fundamental part of the Jigsaw ethos and key learning objective for the children we care for.

Our children are our future so not only do we have a responsibility to take mindful decisions which safeguard their future planet we also have a duty to teach and guide them to ensure we are shaping sustainable citizens who will lead the way in years to come.

Source: Earth Optimism Cambridge

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How to “Green” your older homes



The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service have provided up to date guidance, hints, tips and local case studies on making older or historic buildings more energy efficient, without damaging their historic significance. This inspiring video is a must for those not sure where to begin or unsure of what changes can be made to their home. Please note, this is a pre-recorded webinar, but if you have a question which has not been answered, please get in touch at


Source: Earth Optimism, Cambridge and

The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service

The Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service is the planning authority for Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council.

As one of the largest planning services in the East of England operating in one of the fastest growing economies in the UK, they determine around 7000 planning and related applications per year with some 150 staff. They are developing the emerging Greater Cambridge Local Plan as well as the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan, as well as supporting work on 14 Neighbourhood Plans.

South Cambridgeshire District Council

The District Council‘s vision is to lead the transition to low carbon living in South Cambridgeshire. The Council’s Zero Carbon Strategy aims to:

  • Put its own house in order, so it is an example to others, and work with partners to encourage the adoption of its own high ambitions at scale;
  • Look at all of its work through a green and fair lens, promoting innovative low carbon solutions that also address problems of fuel poverty and lack of access to affordable housing and good public transport;
  • Encourage low carbon energy generation in the district in suitable settings;
  • Be ambitious in its support of new woodland, which will helps to double nature as well as reach net zero carbon
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