George David served as chief executive of United Technologies for 14 years until retiring in 2008, and remains chairman of the Hartford, Conn.-based conglomerate that makes Otis elevators, Carrier heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and other building components.
He will attend a forum in Paris that is expected to call on governments, building developers and others to cut energy use in buildings to slow global climate change.
“I’m going to really try to land hard,” David said in an interview Friday. “There’s a lot of stuff that can be done now with financial paybacks today.”
Buildings account for 40 percent of the world’s energy use, emitting more carbon than do cars and other types of transportation, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said in a report to be presented at the Paris forum.
David said the statistic may be surprising because cars are seen as the biggest polluters.
“We have to realize cars are a quarter of the problem,” he said. “But unlike cars where solutions are 10, 20 years in the future, the solution with buildings is now.”
David said he will press for energy efficiency codes for buildings similar to safety regulations that have been required for decades. The codes, which would define the maximum amount of acceptable energy consumption, could add 5 percent to the cost of buildings in the United States, he said.
The business council, an international organization of about 200 businesses led by CEOs to deal with business and environmental issues, said its research shows that energy use in buildings can be cut by 60 percent by 2050.
Lloyd Timberlake, director of the North American office of the business council, said energy consumption in buildings is for everything from heating and cooling to elevators, machinery, computers and other equipment.
Contributions by buildings to greenhouse gases are underestimated and the cost to build energy-efficient buildings are overestimated, he said.
“Those two things mean it’s been hard to get a serious effort in this,” Timberlake said.
David has used his platform before to call for greater efficiency in buildings. In his years as CEO, United Technologies developed energy-efficient elevators, heating and cooling and other systems to remain competitive and keep up with changes in manufacturing technologies.
Still, it’s not possible to calculate how much additional revenue or profit United Technologies, which also makes jet engines, aerospace electrical systems and helicopters, can count on from improved energy efficiency in buildings, he said.
“I don’t think UTC is going to benefit materially in a revenue sense in a year or two or three,” David said. “It’s very hard to carve it out.”
The report by the Energy Efficiency in Buildings research project is scheduled to be released at a forum of the Alliance to Save Energy.