The Biden administration has announced several initiatives to curb carbon emissions through improved performance of both public and private buildings.
“Decarbonizing buildings is a big task, but it’s an essential task and we all recognize the benefits are worth the hard work it will take to get there,” said Michael Regan, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, during a joint roundtable May 17 to announce the new programs.
Among its plans, the administration intends to develop the federal government’s first-ever building performance standards.
The Council on Environmental Quality will lead an interagency effort with EPA, the U.S. General Services Administration and the U.S. Energy Dept. “to establish metrics, targets and tracking methods to reach federal carbon emissions goals,” said Katy Kale, acting GSA administrator. “With our enormous building footprint, the federal government is in a unique place to lead by example.”
No specifics or timelines were provided, but the group plans to identify progressive performance milestones to meet its goals. Last month, GSA renewed its commitment to 100% renewable energy for all government owned buildings by 2025.
In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that targets achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 with the goal of a net-zero economy by 2050.
As part of its efforts to achieve low and no-emission buildings, DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative in coordination with Dept. of Housing and Urban Development named 55 commercial, industrial and multifamily organizations to participate in a new Low-Carbon Buildings Pilot program.
Among other standards announced, the Biden administration plans to update Energy Star standards for heat pumps, central air conditioners and electric water heaters sold in the U.S.
EPA's Regan estimates that these updates could generate energy cost savings of $11 billion a year and help avoid one-third of annual greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. homes and apartments.
DOE also launched the Initiative for Better Energy, Emissions and Equity, which will commit to funding $10 million to research and adoption of heat pump technologies. The agency will partner with national laboratories and manufacturers to accelerate development of more efficient refrigerants that can be quickly commercialized.
DOE will also commit up to $30 million in technical assistance and funding awards to support organizations–including unions, trade associations, and educational institutions–that train workers to support development and construction of high-performance buildings.
“We’re going to grow a world-class domestic building workforce,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.