Buildings & Energy

Buildings have an extensive impact on the environment in terms of energy use, water consumption, electricity consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions. Traditional approaches to new construction, renovation, deconstruction, and operations and maintenance of buildings will do little to improve these statistics. However, education within the industry can influence positive change.  For example, we can now dispel the common myth that sustainable design strategies necessitate exorbitant cost premiums. The vast majority of current research shows that a focus on integrated design, setting environmentally sustainable goals, a focus on materials reuse and recycling, and using full-cost accounting to measure return on investment are the crucial issues for successful green building projects - not a bigger budget.

Similarly, local governments have a growing role in the decision-making process related to their energy systems. These municipal systems include both sources of energy supply (utility plants, generators, etc) and sources of energy demand (transportation systems, buildings, etc).  Environmentally-friendly municipal energy strategies require balancing the need for i) appropriate selection of energy sources based on a hierarchy of sustainable practices, ii) increased decentralization of the local energy grid, iii) affordable pricing based on full-cost accounting methods, and iv) lessening the vulnerability of communities that are overly-dependent on a single energy source.

Featured Resources

Better Energy (Be.) Program

Better Energy (Be.) Program: Apple Valley, Minn.

The city of Apple Valley, Minn., in partnership with local energy utilities and area non-profits, developed an innovative full-service energy program that uses a combination of social marketing, education, professional evaluations and innovative feedback to encourage residential energy conservation and efficiency.

Roadmap to Green Government Buildings

Roadmap to Green Government Buildings

Visible public projects that highlight the beauty and value of green building also raise awareness, inspire the broader implementation of sustainable building practices and encourage the private sector to build green.

Solar Beaverton: Beaverton, OR

Solar Beaverton: Beaverton, OR

This is a case study of the City of Beaverton, OR's city-led community solar program designed to encourage residential renewable energy.

Co-Benefits Risk Assessment Screening Model

Co-Benefits Risk Assessment Screening Model

Developed by the U.S. EPA, the Co-Benefits Risk Assessment (COBRA) screening model is a free tool that helps state and local governments estimate and map the air quality, human health, and related economic benefits (excluding energy cost savings) of clean energy policies or programs.

Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing: A guide to Developing & Implementing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs

Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing: A guide to Developing & Implementing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs

This guide describes how local governments have planned and implemented programs to reduce the energy-cost burden on low-income households while also generating other energy, environ­mental, and economic benefits for the local community and region.

Model Ordinance: Sustainable Building

Model Ordinance: Sustainable Building

The following page outlines various components of a sustainable building ordinace, from energy related specifications to adminstrative components.