The evolution and future perspectives of energy intensity in the global building sector 1971–2060

Xiaoyang Zhong, Mingming Hu, Sebastiaan Deetman, João F. D. Rodrigues, Hai-Xiang Lin, Arnold Tukker, Paul Behrens

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Energy efficiency plays an essential role in energy conservation and emissions mitigation efforts in the building sector. This is especially important considering that the global building stock is expected to rapidly expand in the years to come. In this study, a global-scale modeling framework is developed to analyze the evolution of building energy intensity per floor area during 1971–2014, its relationship with economic development, and its future role in energy savings across 21 world regions by 2060. Results show that, for residential buildings, while most high-income and upper-middle-income regions see decreasing energy intensities and strong decoupling from economic development, the potential for further efficiency improvement is limited in the absence of significant socioeconomic and technological shifts. Lower-middle-income regions, often overlooked in analyses, will see large potential future residential energy savings from energy intensity reductions. Harnessing this potential will include, among other policies, stricter building efficiency standards in new construction. For the commercial sector, during 1971–2014, the energy intensity was reduced by 50% in high-income regions but increased by 193% and 44% in upper-middle and lower-middle-income regions, respectively. Given the large energy intensity reduction potential and rapid floor area growth, commercial buildings are increasingly important for energy saving in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number127098
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Decoupling
  • Energy intensity
  • Global building sector
  • Integrated assessment model
  • LMDI
  • Scenario analysis


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