Foreword Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Buildings in the United States homes, offices, and industrial facilities account for over
40 percent of our nation s carbon dioxide emissions. Most of these emissions come from the combustion
of fossil fuels to provide heating, cooling, and lighting and to run electrical equipment and appliances.
The manufacture of building materials and products, and the increased emissions from the transportation
generated by urban sprawl, also contribute a significant amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions every
year. In this report, authors Marilyn Brown, Frank Southworth, and Theresa Stovall identify numerous
opportunities available now, and in the future, to reduce the building sector s overall impact on climate.
This Pew Center report is part of our effort to examine key sectors, technologies, and policy
options to construct the 10 50 Solution to climate change. The idea is that we need to tackle climate
change over the next fifty years, one decade at a time. Looking at options for the near (10 years) and long
(50 years) term, this report yields the following insights for reducing GHG emissions from the largest
portion of our nation s physical wealth our built environment.
This sector presents tremendous challenges. There are so many different energy end uses and
GHG relevant features, multiple stakeholders and decision makers, and numerous market barriers
to energy efficiency.
Yet numerous opportunities exist. In the near term, simply bringing current building practices up
to the level of best practices would yield tremendous energy and cost savings. Past studies have
shown that many climate friendly and cost effective measures in the buildings sector are not fully
utilized in the absence of policy intervention. The R&D and six deployment policies examined in
this report could reduce forecasted energy consumption and carbon emissions of buildings in the
United States in 2025 by almost one quarter, or by an amount roughly equal to 10% of total
projected U.S. carbon emissions. In 2025 and beyond, newly constructed net zero energy homes
and climate friendly designs for large commercial buildings and industrial facilities could begin
to generate sizeable GHG reductions by displacing the energy intensive structures that embody
today's standard practices.
An integrated approach is needed to reduce GHG emissions from the diverse and fragmented building
sector. Such an approach coordinates across technical and policy solutions, integrates engineer
ing approaches with architectural design, considers design decisions within the realities of build
ing operation, integrates green building with smart growth concepts, and takes into account the
numerous decision makers within the industry.
An expansive view of the building sector is needed to completely identify and capitalize on the
full range of GHG reduction opportunities. Such a view needs to consider future building
construction (including life cycle aspects of buildings materials, design, and demolition), use
(including on site power generation and its interface with the electric grid), and location
(in terms of urban densities and access to employment and services).
The authors and the Pew Center would like to thank Robert Broad of Pulte Home Sciences, Leon
Clarke of the Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Jean Lupinacci of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
and Steven Nadel of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy for their review of and advice
on a previous draft of this report, and Tony Schaffhaeuser for contributions to an early version this paper.
Towards a Climate Friendly