Based on information from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency, Americans spend $1 million on energy every minute. It also is reported in DOE’s National Energy Policy that during the next 20 years, U.S. natural-gas consumption will rise by more than 50 percent and demand for electricity will increase by 45 percent.

To meet projected energy demand, DOE reports that the U.S. must have 1,300 to 1,900 new 300-megawatt electric plants in place by 2020; that would require constructing 60 to 90 power plants per year. However, DOE also states modest increases in energy efficiency, including insulation, would eliminate the need for 600 of those new power plants. Because power generation accounts for about one-quarter of total emissions of carbon dioxide per year, it is a significant factor in global warming. Simply increasing energy efficiencies could mitigate thousands of tons of CO2 generation annually. Several programs and initiatives seek to increase energy efficiency and reduce associated greenhouse-gas emissions.


Current green-rating systems, such as LEED, a program of the Washington-based U.S. Green Building Council; Green Globes, a program of the Portland, Ore.-based Green Building Initiative; and the National Green Building Standard from the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders, reward points or credits for achieving energy-efficiency goals. Initially, these energy design options were of interest because of their measurable return on investment. However, project data from David Langdon’s report, “Cost of Green Revisited,” indicate that LEED Energy and Atmosphere credits have not been strongly pursued in projects other than as prerequisites and to realize energy-cost-reduction benefits, which are legitimate goals with a residual carbon-reduction impact.

A new initiative has grown out of interest in zero-net-energy buildings inspired by Santa Fe, N.M.-based Architecture 2030, a nonprofit established by Ed Mazria in 2002. The Energy Independence and Security Act (HR 6) Section 422—Zero Net Energy Commercial Buildings Initiative—authorizes a zero-net-energy initiative to be operated by the DOE Office of Commercial High-Performance Green Buildings. The Commercial Buildings Initiative answers this call and is a collaboration of the Washington-based Alliance to Save Energy; Washington-based American Institute of Architects; Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc.; Berkeley, Calif.-based Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; USGBC; and Genevabased World Business Council for Sustainable Development. CBI is developing and delivering the technology, policies and practices to ensure all new commercial buildings are zero-net energy by 2030, half of the existing commercial building stock is zero-net energy by 2040 and all commercial buildings are zero-net energy by 2050.

During CBI’s initial meeting in December 2007, David Hewitt, executive director of the New Buildings Institute, White Salmon, Wash., discussed the Core Performance Guide, which includes a series of energy-efficiency measures that result in buildings being 30 percent more efficient than ASHRAE 90.1-2004, “Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.” The guide has been used by participating utilities as the basis for providing financial incentives, sometimes labeled as “white tags,” to customers that implement energy-conservation measures.

NBI, in recent research, indicated that there are at least 100 new commercial buildings in the U.S. designed to be 50 percent more energy efficient than required by ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001. Included are a wide range of building types that represent most climate zones. Through this effort, NBI has established, which provides links to detailed case studies ideal for exploring baselines for new projects. The buildings surveyed represent 0.1 percent of annual commercial new construction, making it clear there is much work to do in establishing greater energy-efficiency and carbon-reduction project goals.

Results from the LEED Energy Performance Project, a joint USGBC and NBI study, state that on average the energy efficiency of LEED-certified buildings is 25 to 30 percent greater than non-LEED buildings. However, the same study reported that 25 percent of LEED buildings in the study were performing in excess of their stated energy-efficiency goals. (The full report is available at LEED_ presentation_11-13s.pdf.) To address this issue, USGBC recently adopted NBI’s Core Performance Guide as an option for LEED. These prescriptive options offer up to five points under LEED-NC v2.2 Energy and Atmosphere Credit 1: Optimize Energy Performance.


During Greenbuild 2006, USGBC announced a goal to more closely align with global climate initiatives. Several of the initiatives mandated by USGBC include that all new commercial LEED projects beginning in 2007 will be required to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent when compared to the current emission levels of comparable structures. There also are increasing energy-reduction prerequisites and requirements; all new projects must achieve a minimum of two mandatory energy and optimization credits. Green Globes also is focusing on energy-efficiency and carbon-reduction point incentives that connect to the power-producer carbon-emission impacts.

Pressure on many power producers to deliver energy-efficiency programs that ensure maximum optimization of energy production and minimize carbon emissions is tied to applications for development of new power plants. Efficiency gains in buildings are likely to provide the greatest energy reductions and, in many cases, will be the most economical option. “A Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Reduction,” published in a 2007 issue of the McKinsey Quarterly revealed that almost one-quarter of possible emission reductions would result from measures that carry no net life-cycle cost, such as better insulation in buildings.

To support the use of better insulation in buildings, “Green and Competitive Report: Energy Conservation Management,” which was prepared by the Alliance to Save Energy; Energy Conservation Management, Washington; and Barakat and Chamberlin Inc., Washington, states., states all insulation products installed in U.S. buildings save consumers about 12 quadrillion BTUs annually, or about 42 percent of the energy that would have been consumed with no insulation in place. Insulation currently in place in U.S. buildings also reduces CO2 emissions by 780 million tons (708 million metric tons) each year.


It has become widely accepted that there are climate-change impacts from carbon emissions in the building sector. As a result, many energy-efficiency and carbon-reduction programs are being initiated by global, federal, state and local agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations.

Energy-efficiency strategies are critical to new building construction but it is in the existing building stock where the real opportunity to make a difference exists. USGBC has led the way with LEED, but clearly there are other emerging sustainable-design guidelines. The challenge is motivating change in the way energy is related to a project owner and tenants.

Power-producer decoupling programs are providing new economic incentives. Decoupling is a pricing strategy that breaks the age-old link between volume of energy sold and profits. Several states have implemented decoupling recently to modify the economic effects of energy efficiency on the utilities. As an example, on July 20, 2007, the Maryland Public Service Commission, Baltimore, approved a new rate mechanism for the state's largest utilities that decouples rates and thus eliminates a disincentive for the utilities to promote energy efficiency and demand response. (For more information, see ng-to-promote-energy-efficiency.html.)

In addition, establishing energy-efficiency economic business models that owners and tenants will buy into requires more sophisticated strategies in real-estate markets, such as utilizing targeted analyses for improving overall energy efficiency as related to an owner's share of savings in net-operating income compared to a building’s appraised value.

Varying influences make it difficult to be clear about how to achieve energy-efficiency and carbon-reduction targets. Implementation to achieve energy-efficiency targets will require a collaborative effort with delivery through integrated-design processes. Evolving technologies, such as building-information modeling, will aid the building team in successful project delivery and continuing operation.

The impacts of these influences are challenging design teams with emerging targets that the building team must incorporate into contract and construction documents. The risks involved in delivering these requirements are not completely evident to the building team and will make integrated design more important than ever before. Energy efficiency certainly is driving the new age of building construction.

Paul R. Bertram, Jr. is the director of environment and sustainability for North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C. He can be reached at or (703) 684-0084.



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY / DOE, Washington, D.C., has announced Transformational Energy Action Management, an initiative designed to reduce energy intensity 30 percent across all its facilities. TEAM requires DOE to have measures in place this year. 20'2007-08-15'%7D

THE BUILDING CODES ASSISTANCE PROJECT / A joint initiative of the Alliance to Save Energy, Washington, D.C.; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Washington; and Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, this project promotes the adoption, implementation and utilization of energy-efficient construction standards in the U.S.

ENERGY EFFICIENT CODE COALITION / In August 2007, a broad coalition of energy-efficiency supporters submitted a major package of code-change proposals to the Washington-based International Code Council for inclusion in the 2009 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code. This package proposes to increase residential new construction energy efficiency by 30 percent.

ASHRAE 189.1 / The proposed 189.1, “Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings,” is being developed for consideration at the discretion of adopters, including owners, designers and code jurisdictions. The U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air- Conditioning Engineers Inc., Atlanta; and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, New York, cosponsored this effort for a minimum standard for high-performance green building.

ASHRAE ADVANCED ENERGY DESIGN GUIDE SERIES / The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc., Atlanta, has released its Advanced Energy Design Guide series, which includes recommendations for practical products and off-the-shelf technology needed for achieving 30 percent energy savings compared to buildings that meet the minimum requirements of ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-1999. The guides can be downloaded free from ASHRAE’s Web site.

THE CLINTON CLIMATE INITIATIVE / Through the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, this program provides tools to create leaders in energy-efficiency and green-building strategies, which will result in the reduction of carbon emissions. Alliances include the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Inc., Atlanta; Alliance to Save Energy, Washington; and International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, Toronto.

BUILDING AMERICA / Building America, a partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., conducts systems engineering research to produce homes on a community scale that use on average 30 to 90 percent less energy and integrate on-site power systems leading to zero-energy homes that will ultimately produce as much energy as they use by 2020.

THE RENEWABLE ENERGY & ENERGY EFFICIENCY PARTNERSHIP / This Vienna, Austria-based partnership works with governments, businesses, industry, financiers and societies across the world to expand the global market for renewable-energy and energy-efficiency technologies.

TARGET FINDER / The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Target Finder helps architects and building owners set aggressive, realistic energy targets and rate a design's estimated energy use. The target and design ratings in Target Finder are derived from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, which was compiled by the Washington-based Energy Information Administration.