Fact Sheet

Building Decarbonization

Region

National

NCEL Point of Contact

Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Program Manager

Contact

Overview

Decarbonized buildings incorporate energy efficiency upgrades, electrification, and design elements which can drastically lower U.S. energy demand while providing benefits such as cost savings, carbon pollution reduction, and improved indoor air quality. Commercial and residential buildings account for ~13% of U.S. emissions, largely due to burning gas, diesel, or heating oil. States that are proactive about building codes and standards can reduce emissions while creating jobs in retrofitting and weatherization.

Key Points

Key Point 1

In 2021, buildings in the U.S. accounted for 28% of total U.S. energy consumption. (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Key Point 2

LEED-certified buildings are cost effective, saving $1.2 billion in energy costs, $149.5 million in water costs, $715.3 million in maintenance costs, and $54.2 million in waste costs. (U.S. Green Building Council)

Key Point 3

Decarbonized buildings cost only marginally more to build, and result in significantly higher sales and rental rates, as well as tremendous savings on energy costs over time. (U.S. Green Building Council)

Key Point 4

Homes with fossil fuel-powered appliances have poorer indoor air quality causing increased likelihood of diseases like asthma. Homes with gas stoves can have nitrogen dioxide concentrations that are 50–400% higher than homes with electric stoves, and children in a home with a gas stove have a 24–42% increased risk of having asthma. (Rocky Mountain Institute)

Legislation

  • **New Jersey A5160/S3324 (enacted 2022): updated efficiency standards for a set of 17 household and commercial appliances such as light fixtures and shower heads.
  • Utah S.B.188 (enacted 2022): expanded opportunities for low-income individuals and families to receive grants that will help cover the cost of replacing wood-burning fireplaces and appliances with energy-efficient ones.
  • Vermont H.715 (passed both chambers 2022): establishes a Clean Heat Standard: a system of tradeable clean heat credits earned from the delivery of clean heat measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions administered by the Public Utility Commission.
  • Massachusetts S.9 (enacted 2021): established a more robust building energy code that municipalities can opt into, which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
  • Connecticut S.B.356 (enacted 2021): requires the Department of Housing to establish a housing energy efficiency retrofit program; prioritizes low-income households and applications that  use the services of local contractors who pay the prevailing wage and make efforts to hire minority business enterprises.

Resources

NCEL Resources

Video

Four Ways U.S. States Can Reduce Their Emissions

January 10, 2023

Online Resources

State and Local Green Building Initiatives - The American Institute of Architects

A report on the many incentives local governments can offer to encourage private development of green buildings.

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Building Performance Standards - Institute for Market Transformation

An overview of Building Performance Standards and their benefits.

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Gas Stoves: Health and Air Quality Impacts and Solutions - Rocky Mountain Institute et al.

This report synthesizes the last two decades of research and offer recommendations for policymakers, researchers, health care professionals, and the public to work to swiftly to mitigate the health risks associated with gas stoves

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Resources for State Legislators - US Green Building Council

This document lists USGBC's top resources for state legislators for easy reference.

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