The Building Sector Became A Model For Green Growth
In the past two decades, significant progress has been made to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector through sustainable construction practices.
Buildings are a major source of energy use in the United States. Constructing new buildings, and then heating, cooling, and otherwise powering them once they’re in use accounts for a hefty chunk of overall electricity consumption. This means that the energy efficiency of the building sector has enormous implications for the country’s ecological footprint and ultimate ability to meet its climate goals. To put this in perspective: from 2005 to 2022, the U.S. added a whopping. 62.5 billion square feet to its building stock — this could be approximately equated to adding six cities the size of Boston each and every year. But over the past two decades, the U.S. building sector has made incredible advances in reducing the amount of energy used to build new structures, and therefore in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.
For most of the country’s industrial history, growth in the buildings sector was directly connected with growth in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. “However, in 2005, something extraordinary happened,” The Hill recently reported. That near-miracle was that “building operating energy and emissions decoupled from building sector growth.” According to figures from Architecture 2030, the carbon intensity (carbon dioxide emissions per square foot of floor area) of U.S. buildings has declined by a remarkable 39.8 percent for residential and 43.7 percent for commercial buildings since 2005. Energy consumption in the building process has drastically decreased, and “from 2010 to 2022, residential and commercial building energy consumers saved approximately $530 billion total from 2010 projected energy costs.”