New Buildings

AuthorLee Paddock and Caitlin McCoy
Page 256 Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States
I. Introduction
New buildings present an especia lly important opportu-
nity to advance energy eciency and achieve decarbon-
ization in the building sector, as compared with existing
buildings, because of the ability to incorporate eciency
and decarbonization approaches direct ly into new building
design. However, new buildings present a particular chal-
lenge to decarbonization. If energy-eciency measures or
electrication opportunities are not incorporated into the
building design, it may be years before these measures are
employed for the existing building. Further, carbon emis-
sions from production of building materials become locked
in. As a result, it is critical to focus now on new building
design, construction, and operation to achieve decarbon-
ization of ne w buildings.
is chapter explores the rapidly changing landscape
related to decarbonization of new buildings and recom-
mends ways to accelerate this eort. First, the chapter
addresses some of the current issues in building construc-
tion and design in terms of energy use and carbon inten-
sity. Second, the specic decarbonization goals for new
buildings in the United States by 2050 are set out. e
chapter then denes and discusses zero-energy buildings
(ZEBs), as they represent an overarching concept that
unites many of the steps that will need to be taken in new
building design and construction to achieve decarboniza-
tion. Part V also discusses passive buildings. Next, the
chapter considers action being taken in the United States
and the European Union (EU) to facilitate new building
energy performance. Finally, the chapter discusses recom-
mendations designed to meet the new buildings deca rbon-
ization goals, and Part IX concludes.
II. Background
Commercial and residential building s in the United States
consume a signicant amount of energy, and new build-
ings raise important questions about energy use and e-
ciency over the course of their useful lives. is part will
provide background information on U.S. building stocks,
building life expectancy, energy usage in buildings, and
energy-eciency eorts in the building sector. Based on
2013 census data, the median year that houses in the
United States were built was 1976, and the largest per-
Chapter 10
New Buildings
by Lee Paddock and Caitlin McCoy
New buildings constructed today can be expected to remain in use until well beyond 2050. As a result, thought-
ful decisions now can have a signicant impact on reducing the carbon footprint of buildings for decades to
come rather than locking in carbon emissions that will make it dicult to achieve the Deep Decarbonization
Pathways Project (DDPP) goals for carbon reduction. Buildings use about 40% of energy produced in the
United States and are responsible for about 30% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, making carbon emis-
sions from buildings a priority for carbon reduction. Fortunately, substantial progress has been made in making
new buildings more energy ecient, and the technology that would allow for major additional reductions is
available. While this progress is important, much more needs to be done in the new building sector to reach the
DDPP goals for carbon reduction. is chapter discusses the changes that need to occur and sets out recom-
mendations to help accomplish the carbon reduction goals.
Author’s Note: ank you to Nicole Montenero and Jill Goatcher for
their research assistance.
Page 257
centage of residences is between 35 and 64 years old.1 e
life expectancy of commercial buildings ranges from just
over 50 years for wood buildings to more than 87 year s for
concrete buildings.2 ese data indicate that today’s new
residential and commercial buildings are likely to still be
in use well beyond 2050. As a result, near-term action is
required to prevent lock-in of building stock that produces
signicant carbon emissions.
Buildings are major sources of these emissions. In 2015,
energy use by buildings made up 40% of all energy use in
both the United States3 and worldwide,4 as well as 30% of
all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,5 with U.S. buildings
responsible for 9% of the world’s GHGs by themselves.6
Natural gas is t he source of one-half of the energy used for
heating houses and heating water in houses.7
However, there is good news in the trends on energy
use. For example, between 2003 and 2012, energy inten-
sity for commercial buildings declined by 12% and energy
intensity for government buildings declined by 23%.8 Still,
to achieve deep decarbonizat ion goals, new building s must
be much more energy ecient, must increasingly utilize
low-carbon sources of energy, especially for heating and
hot water, and should acquire or generate zero-carbon
energy to oset energy used in the buildings.
Among the factors that have led to energy-eciency
improvements, the commercial building market’s uptake
of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED) and Energy Star® standards for new buildings has
been notable. Both LEED and Energy Star for buildings
are discussed later in this chapter. However, the focus for
1. U.S. C B, 2013 H P: U S (2015)
(AHS/13-1), available at
2. Jennifer O’Connor, Survey on Actual Service Lives for North American
Buildings, Presentation at Woodframe Housing Durability and Disaster Issues
Conference 1, 5 (Oct. 2004),
3. U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Frequently Asked Ques-
tions—How Much Energy Is Consumed in U.S. Residential and Commercial
Buildings?, (last updated
May 10, 2017).
4. U N E P, B  C
C: S  D-M 1, 3 (2009), available at
5. Id.
6. U.S. D  E, E E T  R
 C B 11 (2008), available at
7. See EIA, Everywhere but Northeast, Fewer Homes Choose Natural Gas as Heating
Fuel, T  E, Sept. 25, 2014,
8. See EIA, Recent Energy Intensity Decline in Government Buildings Exceeds
Commercial Sector Average, T  E, Sept. 16, 2016, http://www.
achieving signicant reductions in building energy use,
particularly fossil fuel consumption, has increasingly been
on the concept of ZEBs.9 Several strategies are emerging to
drive increased decarbonization of new buildings. ese
strategies for the most part do not need to rely on new
or untested technologies. Utilizing the best technology
available today could lower energy demands by 61% for
residential buildings and 78% for commercial buildings.10
Important work has already occurred in conceptualizing a
much lower carbon future for new buildings. For example,
the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA’s) 2030 Chal-
lenge envisions all new buildings and major renovations
resulting in carbon-neutral operation by 2030.11
In addition to operational energy use, new buildings
raise one other important energy question—embodied
energy—which is the energy contained in the materi-
als used to construct new buildings. Embodied energy
includes emissions from resource extraction, processing,
material production, building construction, building
deconstruction, and disposal, as well as transportation
for those activities.12 Of the total energy consumed in a
building’s life cycle, embodied energy accounts for 10%-
38% of total energy use for conventional buildings and
9%-46% for more energy-ecient buildings.13 Embodied
energy is receiving more attention, and it is a complex issue
that requires consideration of trade os and diminishing
returns. For example, at what point does the embodied
energy in manufacturing, transporting, and installing
large amounts of insulation materials exceed the energy
savings achieved with the additional insulation?
9. Also called a net zero-energy building or zero net-energy building. is
chapter will use the term “zero energy building” due to the U.S. Department
of Energy’s (DOE’s) adoption of it after determining it concisely describes
the concept and resonates with building owners “in striving for simplicity,
consistency and to accentuate the core objective.” See R G  .,
N I  B S  ., A C D-
  Z E B 2 (2015), available at
10. DOE, Increasing Eciency of Building Systems and Technologies September
2015, in Q T R: A A  E
T  R O 143, 155-56 (2015), available
11. Architecture 2030, e 2030 Challenge: All New Buildings, Developments, and
Major Renovations Shall Be Carbon-Neutral by 2030, http://architecture2030.
org/2030_challenges/2030-challenge/ (last visited Nov. 1, 2017).
12. S E. L  P H W, UNEP DTU P,
W P S N. 13, C B C B  B
3 (2016),
13. Cassandra L. iel et al., A Materials Life Cycle Assessment of a Net-Zero
Energy Building, 6 E 1125, 1127 (2013), available at http://www.

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