We know buildings are energy guzzlers – the US Green Building Council says buildings account for 2/3 of electricity consumption and 1/3 of energy use in this country. Now we hear that North American buildings release more than 1/3 of the continent's total CO2 each year. So says the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), in a new report touting the benefits of "green buildings." The good news, according to the CEC, is that newer buildings, with their more efficient lighting, residential and motor controls, and HVAC systems, not only reduce energy consumption by upwards of 50%, they can also reduce those CO2 emissions by more than half.
We've been making this point for several years now. U.S. manufacturers, the most innovative in the world, have the technology today to dramatically reduce our nation's energy consumption without forcing Americans into a 1970s-style energy retrenchment. Too bad only two percent of the new non-residential building market and half of one percent of the residential market are presently built "green." The hurdle seems to be the upfront costs, even though the energy savings make up for these costs within the first few years.
It's an area in which developers, contractors, manufacturers, and government officials should work more closely to create the necessary incentives to jump-start this market.