Federal Government to Boost Green Construction

Emissions from federal buildings could be reduced by 1.86 million metric tons.

Source : Lily Banse, Unsplash

January 10, 2023

Author : Patty Allen

Former US President Obama once said there is no Planet B.  With climate change-related impacts being felt every step of the way, governments globally are taking unprecedented steps to protect the environment.

The built environment accounts for 40% of worldwide CO2 emissions. Building operations account for 27% of total emissions yearly, while building and infrastructure materials and construction account for an additional 13%.

The Biden-Harris administration is working to achieve net-zero emissions in all federal buildings by 2045. 

By signing the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, President Biden started in motion public and corporate investment in climate solutions aimed at reducing GHG emissions. The plan includes $391 billion in funding for climate solutions, including new tax credits for household energy retrofits, energy efficiency rebates, and a variety of associated measures, such as higher energy efficiency standards for air conditioners and other HVAC equipment. There is also money for retrofits, revised building energy requirements, and tax breaks for commercial buildings that use less energy.

In December 2022, the government announced, through the US Department of Energy, that new as well as newly renovated federal buildings would be electrified to reduce energy consumption and bring down the overall carbon footprint. 

From 2025, these buildings will be required to cut down their on-site emissions associated with energy consumption by 90% relative to 2003 levels. By 2030, on-site carbon emissions will be completely decarbonized in new and newly renovated federal buildings. 

Alongside this, the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) also announced the creation of a performance standard for federal buildings. This is set to reduce energy consumption and electrify the usage of all equipment and appliances in 30% of building spaces owned by the federal government. 

These actions are significant because energy usage and carbon emissions in building account for about three-fourths of electricity consumption in the United States. Moreover, 40% of all primary energy generated in the country goes into the operation of these buildings. The federal government has a massive building stock, so these measures can have a lasting contribution to the effort to lower energy usage in the country. 

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said, “Ridding pollution from our buildings and adopting clean electricity are some of the most cost-effective and future-oriented solutions we have to combat climate change." 

The Department of Energy has estimated that if the proposed steps are implemented, taxpayers will save $8 million annually because of the reduction in emissions. Carbon emissions from federal buildings would likewise reduce by 1.86 million metric tons.  

As per the new rules, the electrification of federal buildings is set to be accelerated by reducing the use of fossil fuels for purposes like heating. The administration has also mandated transition facilities to consume less energy and reduce carbon emissions. 

A statement has been released to announce the proposal for this new standard, which would include ‘greener’ courthouses, government offices, and laboratories. Federal agencies have been advancing net-zero goals for new building constructions, renovations, and modernizations to electrify the infrastructure, save power, and cut emissions.

This move has also been seen in parts of Asia, with Singapore extending funding to reduce carbon emissions, resulting in a very high percentage of green-certified buildings in the country. In China, new regulations have mandated sustainability reports on energy consumption and carbon footprint as part of the required documentation for new building projects. Corporate real estate leaders across the Asia Pacific are also planning on eliminating carbon-inefficient building spaces by 2025.

Contractor News had previously reported that PCL Construction had seen 60% growth in its solar division's revenue stream. Change is inevitable and it's happening before our eyes in the construction industry.

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