NEEP identified two innovative and advanced policy mechanisms to advance the building sector to meet climate goals: 1) establishing strong performance standards for new and existing buildings, and 2) implementing zero energy/carbon building energy codes.
Currently, buildings consume about two-thirds of the United States’ power supply and produce about 40 percent of carbon emissions. Because of the magnitude of emissions and opportunity for reductions within them, buildings will be a critical piece of the solution for climate change.
The built environment – including residential, commercial, and public structures – presents an opportunity to drastically reduce carbon emissions outside of the energy efficiency and utility regulatory space. Implementing mechanisms such as performance standards and stricter building codes will encourage additional decarbonization efforts and expand state efforts. States and regulatory bodies can start shifting goals and policy objectives to include state climate goals within the whole building sector by implementing the following policies:
- Disclose Energy Use of Buildings: For residential and commercial buildings, disclosing energy use through ratings and labels can help cities and state reach climate goals by promoting health, safety, comfort, and energy efficiency for all buildings. For building occupiers, these practices allow them to understand their building’s energy use and make changes to its consumption. For the market, labels can assist in properly valuing buildings so that energy use becomes a part of the equation. These policies can also inform future policy by identifying areas of need and opportunity in the building energy sector.
- Align Building Codes with Climate Policy: Building codes create minimum state or municipal standards for new construction and major renovations. Once implemented codes can grow stronger, therefore increasing thermal efficiency of buildings and lowering their energy usage and carbon emissions. In addition to statewide codes, communities can implement stretch energy codes, which go beyond the state code and enforce even stronger standards.
- Implement Building Performance Standards: Performance standards measure a building’s energy usage and mandate that current building owners lower energy use or carbon output to achieve a state or local goal. Through enacting this policy, building owners and property managers are incentivized to find ways to lower the energy usage of their buildings and optimize performance. Further, this policy can hold building owners and property managers accountable in the achievement of state or local climate goals.
- Aide in Workforce Transition: Creating these policies will increase demand for services such as auditors, retro-commissioning, energy code compliance, retrofits, and energy efficiency appraisals. It is important to also look for ways to identify and grow the current workforce in this area by developing programs to train, retrain, and recruit workers to fill the growing demand. It’s also important to identify processes that can be streamlined such as transitioning code offices to electronic permitting, electronic plan review, and electronic inspection request.