Building Decarb Update: Some Highlights at the Federal Level

ICAST MarketingICAST News, Blog, Industry News Leave a Comment

In June, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its National Definition of a Zero Emissions Building. It was finalized after receiving feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders.

Part 1 of the Definition (Operational Emissions from Energy Use) sets criteria for a building with zero emissions from energy used for building operations. It applies to existing buildings and new construction and covers commercial and residential buildings not owned by the U.S. federal government. At a minimum, a building that achieves zero operational emissions from energy use must be efficient, free of onsite emissions from energy use, and powered solely from clean energy. Implementation guidance for meeting these criteria can be found here.

Note that this definition is not a regulatory standard; it is guidance that public and private entities may adopt to determine whether a building has zero emissions from operational energy use, including emissions from tenants. Future parts of this definition may address emissions from producing, transporting, installing, and disposing of building materials, minimizing the impacts of refrigerants, and additional considerations. Other definitions and policies apply to greenhouse gas emissions from federally owned buildings.

This announcement followed several months after the DOE released the first-ever federal blueprint to decarbonize the U.S. building sector. The blueprint aims to drastically cut emissions from buildings, targeting a reduction of 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. It identifies three cross-cutting goals of equity, affordability, and resilience to ensure that the transition of low-carbon buildings benefits disadvantaged communities, reduces energy costs, and increases the ability of communities to withstand stresses. Further, it identifies four strategic objectives:

  • Increase building energy efficiency to reduce overall building energy demand while delivering customer energy bill savings and strengthening building resilience. Performance target: Reduce onsite energy use intensity in buildings by 35% by 2035 and 50% by 2050 vs. 2005.
  • Accelerate onsite emissions reductions by electrifying space and water heating and reducing fugitive equipment refrigerant emissions. Performance target: Reduce onsite greenhouse gas emissions in buildings by 25% by 2035 and 75% by 2050 vs. 2005.
  • Transform the grid edge where building efficiency and electrification solutions, EV charging, and onsite renewable energy generation and storage connect to the power grid to shrink the scale of electrical infrastructure required for a 100% clean electricity system. Performance target: Reduce electrical infrastructure costs by tripling demand flexibility potential by 2050 vs 2020.
  • Minimize embodied life cycle emissions from the construction of every new building and renovation. Performance target: Reduce embodied emissions from building materials and construction by 90% by 2050 vs 2005.

As a national leader in designing and implementing decarbonization solutions to benefit households in the multifamily affordable housing market, ICAST is thrilled to see the growing federal investment in decarbonizing buildings. We will be watching how players in our industry respond to these plans and definitions and how the new resources inform program activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *