The Buildings Program supports policies to increase the efficiency of U.S. homes and businesses and to reduce carbon emissions and utility bills.
Buildings account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy use and are recognized as a key opportunity for gains in efficiency. The recession in the construction industry and real estate market has attracted a great deal of attention to the opportunity for job creation in retrofitting buildings. The recession has also set the stage for stricter codes for new construction. In addition, the boom in "clean tech" is bringing new efficiency technologies to market. Finally, the new administration in Washington, DC has reinvigorated efficiency programs at the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.
The strategy for this sector addresses new and existing buildings, and appliances.
Appliance efficiency standards offer large carbon reductions at low cost. Retrofitting existing buildings is the biggest challenge for the program, for two reasons: (1) opportunities to regulate retrofit are limited, and (2) the magnitude of the existing building stock is large and therefore requires millions of building owners to invest significant capital to make efficiency investments.
The foundation is particularly interested in efforts to:
- Promote the adoption of increasingly stringent building codes, with effective local enforcement;
- Establish stringent appliance standards and complementary consumer labels;
- Create programs to benchmark and rate the energy consumed by buildings and encourage retrofitting the large stock of existing buildings; and
- Develop financial incentives to buy and lease energy-efficient buildings.