Fact Sheet

Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment



NCEL Point of Contact

Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Manager



Energy efficiency upgrades and design elements in buildings have the potential to drastically lower U.S. energy demand while providing benefits such as cost savings, carbon pollution reduction, and decreased water use. Buildings currently account for nearly 75% of U.S. electricity demand and incorporating sustainable design into the built environment can help cities become self-sufficient while increasing affordability of buildings, resilience and promoting job creation. Nationwide, lawmakers are implementing green infrastructure policies that enable communities to become more resource-efficient. One of the most ubiquitous standards is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification that recognizes best-in-class buildings demonstrating efficiency from construction to operating to disposal. Several states require adherence to or promote LEED standards as they set new protocols for future developments in the public and private sectors.

Key Points

Key Point 1

In 2020, buildings in the U.S. accounted for 40% 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

Green 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)


  • Massachusetts introduced H.2810 (2019), an act that invests 30% of all revenue ($400-$600 million per year) in local clean transportation, resiliency, and renewable energy projects.
  • Connecticut’s S.B.927 (2019) establishes an environmental infrastructure fund within the Connecticut Green Bank, which collects funds for green infrastructure investments and technologies.
  • In Washington, S.B.5293 (2019) requires a state energy performance standard for commercial buildings and establishes an early adoption incentive program for the state standard(s).


NCEL Resources

Online Resources

Green Infrastructure: How to Manage Water in a Sustainable Way - NRDC

Overview of the benefits, history, and potential of green buildings.

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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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Roadmap to Resilient, Net-Zero Buildings in the Pacific Northwest - The Pacific NorthWest Economic Region

A resource highlighting how energy efficiency across sectors can benefit the economic health of the Pacific Northwest.

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LEED Rating System -- United States Green Building Council

Explanation of LEED and certification requirements.

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