'Brazil's Green Building Council initiated the 'One Degree Less' project in 2009, which promotes the use of white roofs on buildings and white pavements as part of a strategy to combat climate change and reduce the urban heat island effect'
Brazil presently dominates the South American continent, in terms of size, population, economy and energy consumption. Globally, it is the 10th largest energy consumer and accounts for 40% of Latin America's energy consumption. In 2006, the discovery of significant deep water oil reserves has increased the country's self sufficiency in oil and has established its role as global producer and exporter of oil. While energy intensity in the country has decreased, the place of fossil fuels in the primary energy mix has increased, and carbon emissions have grown on par with demand. Brazil's place and influence in Latin America means its energy policy will have major implications for neighbouring countries.
Despite this shift, Brazil generates nearly 80% of its energy from renewables as a result of large hydropower resources. While the use of both solar and wind technologies are limited today, it has been estimated that by 2030, renewable electricity could reach 180,000 MW of installed capacity.
One of the major barriers to low carbon housing is poverty in both major cities and rural areas. The urgent need for adequate housing for thousands living in slums has catalysed the growth of the construction industry in Brazil over the past decade, which poses unique problems as speed may take precedence over sustainable materials and practices.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
As a result of green housing remaining in its infancy in Brazil, there are few existing examples of low carbon housing. While there are certainly a number of commercial buildings that have been built in major Brazilian cities, residential examples continue to be high-end, luxury homes.
The Casa AQUA is a prototype that was presented at the April 2010 Ambiental Expo in Sao Paulo. The model is a new direction for low carbon housing in Brazil, as it is directed at lower income families. Architect Rodrigo Mindlin Loeb designed the prototype so that it is adaptable to local climate conditions around the country. Designed for a locale with warm temperatures and medium rain levels, the house includes a rainwater collection system, unique green 'curtains' and dry construction techniques such as dirt and concrete 'uncooked' bricks. It also includes solar panels for electricity and a solar water heating system. The modest size of the house, at 40 square meters (430 square feet) ensures it is a more affordable sustainable option for Brazilian families.
As part of the non-Annex I group of the Kyoto Protocol, Brazil ratified the agreement in 2002 and has committed to increase the country's share of alternative renewable energy sources, including biomass, wind, and small hydropower by 10% by 2030. This focus on the development of renewable energy has prevented a strong commitment to the construction of low carbon homes.
The government released the National Climate Change Plan in 2008 which outlines a wide range of ambitious goals across multiple sectors. Targets include reducing emissions from deforestation, maintaining a high renewable energy mix, a scheme to replace old refrigerators and increasing the use of biofuels. The Plan also aims to reduce overall energy consumption by 10% by 2030.
While green building is relatively new in Brazil, it is developing rapidly as the country begins to compete with other emerging market competitors such as India, Russia and China. The main source of guidance for low carbon buildings is the country's Green Building Council, which was established in early 2007. Like other world Green Building Council's, their role has been to promote best practice and implement LEED certification. The other certification program in Brazil is AQUA, derived from the French HQE approach, which was launched in early 2008.
Brazil's Green Building Council initiated the 'One Degree Less' project in 2009, which promotes the use of white roofs on buildings and white pavements as part of a strategy to combat climate change and reduce the urban heat island effect. Funded by the US Secretary of Energy, the project has painted 450 thousand square meters of roofs, as of mid-2010.
The Incentive Program for Alternative Sources of Energy (PROINFA) was established in 2004 to increase electricity produced from renewable sources such as wind, biomass and small hydropower projects. The program has been instrumental in increasing Brazil's wind energy, raising capacity from 22MW to 414MW in three years.
Local governments have been proactive in introducing laws that encourage the use of solar energy. In the city of Belo Horizonte, tax subsidies are available for owners of properties that use solar energy, and solar thermal panels are required in Sao Paulo for houses with four or more bathrooms.
Voluntary labelling programs for electrical appliances have been in place since 1984 with the National Labelling Program as part of the National Electrical Energy Conservation Program (PROCEL). This has helped to encourage reductions in consumption and private interest in increasing energy efficiency.