This article looks into what drawdown looks like for the built environment. It is comprised of the top buildings and cities solutions that made it into the 100 most effective solutions as quantified by Project Drawdown in 2017.


It may surprise some people to know that no buildings and cities solutions made it into the top 20. But taken in their entirety, this is a key sector to decarbonise.

I will go through each of the solutions in order and mention their potential to reduce gigatons of carbon emissions.

27 District Heating, 9.36 GT. It may surprise some to learn that district heating was the most powerful buildings and cities solution.

31 Insulation, 8.27 GT. Insulation has long been touted as a great way to create jobs, improve wellbeing and save carbon emissions, It ranks highly as the number 2 buildings and cities solution.

33 LED Lighting – Household, 7.81 GT. LED lighting is another solution that people would be familiar with as a climate change solution. It ranks highly within buildings and cities at number 3.

42 Heat pumps, 5.04 GT. Heat pumps come in at the 4th most powerful climate change solution within buildings and cities.

44 LED lighting – Commercial, 5.04 GT. LED lighting for commercial purposes ranks slightly lower than its household counterpart, but is still a key solution within buildings and cities.

45 Building Automation 4.62 GT. This solution came in reasonably high in the buildings and cities section and in the top half. I would have thought it would rank higher, but that is not what the data says.

54 Walkable Cities 2.92 GT. This is what I liked about the Drawdown initiative, in that is shone a light on solutions that people may not have thought of, but that could have a powerful impact.

57 Smart Thermostats 2.62 GT. Again, like building automation, I would have thought this would have been higher, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

58 Landfill Methane 2.60 GT. Another surprising one to find in a top 100 most effective climate change solutions list, but this one only just missed out from making it inside the top 50.

59 Bike Infrastructure 2.31 GT. One that was probably expected to rank strongly comes in at number 59.

61 Smart Glass 2.19 GT. This is a very interesting solution, that could bring a great deal of change to the built environment.

71 Water Distribution 0.87 GT. This came in at number 71.

73 Green Roofs 0.77 GT. This is another solution that I expected to rank higher in the process, but is nonetheless an important part of a portfolio of solutions that are required.

Net Zero Buildings 79 and Retrofitting 80 included data from other solutions and so data was not available for these solutions individually. They are nonetheless important areas.

What you need to know

This article looked into the top buildings and cities solutions from Drawdown.

Some rank higher than you expect, some rank lower. Some things you never would have expected to rank are there and others you would have expected to are not.

This is why the Drawdown initiative is so important and why I promote it as much as I can. We have the technology now; we know what the solutions are now. What needs to happen is to deliver on these solutions at a global scale.

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about drawdown in the built environment?

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I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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