Energy-Efficient Buildings Strengthen Urban Resiliency

Designing Buildings to Protect Urban Residents

Next City, May 11, 2016. Image credit: unsplash

Improving energy efficiency in buildings could not only dramatically reduce carbon emissions, but could also reduce the energy burden on poor households, improve indoor and outdoor air quality, create green jobs, and save a lot of money, according to a new report by D.C.-headquartered research organization World Resources Institute (WRI). Each additional $1 spent on energy efficiency avoids more than $2, on average, in energy supply investments, according to the report; implementing efficiency measures now could also avoid locking in carbon emissions far into the future or requiring that buildings later go through costly retrofits.

city buildings

To help building managers, owners and occupants make informed decisions about their energy use, governments can (3) facilitate timely, transparent building performance data, by requiring energy audits, or energy performance disclosure requirements. In New York City, where owners of large buildings are required to annually measure and report on energy consumption, the city uses that benchmarking data to predict energy savings if owners were to implement certain energy-efficiency improvements. To help overcome the economic barriers to instituting such improvements, governments can (4) offer financial incentives like grants and rebates, energy-efficient bonds, mortgage financing, tax incentives, priority permit processing and more.

Local governments can also (5) lead by example, undertaking programs to improve the efficiency of public building stock, or mandating the procurement of efficient products and services in the public sector. Government agencies can further incentivize private building owners, managers and occupants by (6) providing support in the form of information, tools and technical assistance. Singapore, for example, has created a toolkit to help landlords and tenants work together on “green leases” that set out environmental objectives for a buildings’ improvements, operations, management and occupation.

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