Speaking at the launch of the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Awards, CABE chair John Sorrell said public buildings could help combat climate change if their greenhouse gas emissions were better understood.
Public-sector infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, libraries and airports, contributes one third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions from National Health Service buildings rose by 11 per cent between 1999 and 2005, and targets for reducing carbon by 2010 seem unlikely to be met.
Jubilee Library in Brighton, designed by Bennetts Associates with Lomax Cassidy & Edwards, was cited by Sorrell as a beacon of sustainability.
He said: 'A clear brief and the design team's rigorous initial proposals have resulted in ambitions being fully realised.
'Post-occupancy energy assessments indicate emissions are 20 per cent lower than the industry norm for naturally ventilated building.'
Sorrell said government departments needed to ensure that every public building project is evaluated as it is being used.
'There are too many gaps between ambition and reality and we must find out why,' he said.
'This is the only way to drive the continuous improvement in construction that will ensure public building really can mitigate and adapt to climate change.'
See more about the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award at: www.betterpublicbuilding.org.uk