ELLA Policy Brief: Green Building in Latin America

This brief examines green building practices, programmes and regulatory frameworks from Latin America


In Latin America, buildings consume 21% of treated water and 42% of electricity, while producing 25% of CO2 emissions and 65% of waste. Green buildings are defined as structures that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient over their full lifecycles. By transitioning to green buildings, the sector could reduce energy consumption by up to 50%, water use by 40%, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 39%, and solid waste by 70%. They also reduce operating costs, improve workplace productivity, and use sustainable materials. Amidst mounting concerns related to climate change and the demand for energy and water, it is imperative that policymakers and companies alike continue to improve efficiency in the real estate sector, using market mechanisms, certification schemes, and building codes. This Brief examines a selection of green building practices, programmes, and regulatory frameworks from Latin American countries including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico and Peru. Latin American experience demonstrates that the environmental and economic gains are not limited to high-end buildings for large organisations and the wealthy; government programmes supported by development loans and grants are creating innovative approaches to pilot and scale-up green housing for low-income families for truly inclusive green economies.

Key Lessons:

In countries that lack mechanisms to regulate building efficiency, voluntary certification systems and programmes are a great starting point to catalyse the adoption of green buildings.

Fostering broad support from key industry stakeholders is essential for countries to ensure that their green building strategies are scalable.

Rapid urbanisation is a challenge for any government, however green buildings present an opportunity for leaders to improve housing standards while also reducing the nation’s environmental footprint.

Given the long-term investment required by the real estate industry, the core principles of a business-friendly environment – transparency, predictability and accountability – cannot be overstated.


Cesano, D.; Russell, J. ELLA Policy Brief: Green Building in Latin America. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 9 pp.

Published 1 January 2013