Why Green Buildings are Critical to a Renewable Future

Renewable Energy

Buildings in the U.S. account for 39% of total energy use- that’s a huge percentage! Our Green Buildings blog series will cover an overview of the impact of buildings, the immense potential for residential solar, and the significance of green building designs that include passive solar technologies. The environmental, economic, and social benefits of sustainable building practices are extensive, so it only makes sense to begin integrating sustainable strategies and technologies into buildings that are in both the planning and constructed stages.

Why we need green buildings

In a fossil fuel-dependent world, changing the way we traditionally design, construct, and use buildings is essential to reducing carbon emissions and global energy usage.

Environmental impact of buildings

Buildings account for a huge proportion of the world’s natural resource consumption. In the United States alone, the combination of residential and commercial buildings account for 38% of carbon emissions and about 70% of electricity use nation-wide, up to 50% of which is wasted. When it comes to raw materials, buildings use 40% of the world’s resources, which is equivalent to 3 billion tons per year.

These numbers might seem shocking, but think about it; the buildings that we work, sleep, and eat in everyday use lighting, water, heating and cooling systems, computers, and elevators. Not only do buildings consume and waste immense amounts of energy, but most of that power comes from dirty coal sources.

Significant savings come with building green

But don’t worry, there is hope. By making our homes and offices sustainable through green building strategies, we can reduce overall building energy consumption 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 (Environment America Research & Policy Center). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if we are able to reduce the amount of energy our buildings use by 20% over the next 10 years, we would save enough energy annually to power almost 100 million homes.

A residential installation of a renewable energy system not only lessens the need for fossil fuels, but can also significantly lower your energy bills. If American homeowners invest in energy efficient measures, by the year 2050, each family could annually save over $800, totaling $80 billion in residential energy savings.

As you can see, buildings have a huge impact on our energy consumption and consequently our bank accounts.  Tune in next week for Part 2, which will offer an insight into why giving residential buildings a green upgrade may offer large environmental and economic returns.

The average American spends approximately 90% of their time indoors, and indoor environment quality affects health, productivity, and comfort levels.

Many new homes to build

Today, there are 126 million housing units in the U.S., and yet there are only 80,000 solar homes. The potential impact that the residential sector can have on energy usage and resource conservation is enormous.  According to a study by Environment America, 40% of the homes America will need in 2050 haven’t even been built yet. In California alone, approximately 220,000 housing units need to be added annually up until 2020 to meet expected population growth.

With the large number of new residences being built every day, the best way to produce the greatest impact is to integrate energy efficient measures when the building is first being constructed. Things like building orientation, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, and high-quality window and wall insulation should be applied during the planning and building stages.  So, before you or someone you know begin to build a new home, make sure to address your energy efficiency opportunities.

Retrofitting existing residences

In addition to greening new homes, existing residential buildings can also be easily upgraded to reflect sustainable practices. By implementing simple retrofits, like replacing your old furnace to a new one, and addressing common housing components, such as insulation, lighting, and leaks, residents can reduce their energy usage by 30% and save hundreds of dollars on their electricity bills.  By installing a home solar system and making home energy improvements, American’s can save over 50% on their energy bills by the year 2050. This reduction equates to saving the amount of natural gas it takes to heat 75,000 homes.  Another great reason to install a home renewable energy system is to avoid the loss of electricity that occurs through transmission when you get power from the utility grid. By creating energy directly from your own rooftop, you make the most of energy production. Cutting our fossil fuel usage means reducing dirty carbon emissions and consequently putting a halt to global warming.

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