Building Codes and Climate Change
Buildings are big users of energy (accounting for over 40% of all energy use in the U.S.), and as a result the sector is a major contributor to global climate disruption. In the face of slow international action and rising global energy prices, the energy that could be saved from the buildings sector looms large as a part of the solution to climate change. By improving building performance with energy efficiency measures, energy codes provide an immediate strategy to address this global crisis.
Consequences of Inaction
Without a change from business-as-usual trends, greenhouse gas emissions from the buildings sector will continue to increase with global population growth. Additionally, if warming continues, energy use in warm weather months will increase as homes and businesses respond to rising temperatures. Areas already suffering from air quality problems, such as ozone “hot spots,” will see an increase in health impacts (e.g., asthma).
Addressing Emissions from Buildings
To respond to this challenge, building professionals have made great strides to improve the efficiency of buildings. In some cases buildings built today consume zero energy—meaning they produce as much energy with as they use. Although many zero-energy buildings have been built in recent years, these showpiece buildings represent a tiny fraction of all new and remodeled buildings. Even as these strides are made, the bulk of buildings worldwide fail to meet minimum standards of energy performance. To achieve major energy savings across the building stock – and reduce CO2 emissions in a meaningful way – a bold move is needed to improve energy codes that affect all construction.