Buildings and the Climate Bill
by Craig A. Severance
It's important to "get things right" when a new building is constructed. More so than perhaps anything else we create, new buildings will be with us for a very long time.
The greenhouse gas cap-and-trade section of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill gets most of the attention, as it should, but the bill has many other provisions, some of which are directly important to the building industry.
Mistakes We Have to Live in
Our gas-guzzler cars and trucks will rust away to the scrap heap in little more than a decade. Appliances and machinery share a similar fate. This quick turnover assures us our mistakes of the past will not stay with us very long.
Not so with buildings — an energy hog building will likely still be around a hundred years from now. Thoughtlessness in design and orientation of buildings creates inefficiencies that are often difficult or expensive to fix. As energy costs rise, such buildings will be a burden to their owners and renters.
Almost Half of Our Energy Use
While it is fashionable to talk about wind farms and hybrid cars, buildings are the "elephant in the room" seldom discussed, though they are responsible for almost half of U.S. energy use.
Climate scientists have concluded we must cut global warming emissions by at least 80 percent within just 40 years, or face catastrophic climate disasters. If we don't start making better buildings now, we have no hope of meeting this goal.
Stop Doing Things Wrong
For all of these reasons, strong measures are urgently needed to stop new buildings from being built the wrong way when we know how to build them right.
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This discussion of the building code aspects of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) — also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, after Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Edward Markey (D-MA), chair of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee — was published by Craig Severance in his Energy Economy Online blog, and in the Climate Progress blog. We present it here with our illustrations and their permission.
Large per-capita driving in the U.S. makes automobile emissions an important topic of discussion, but buildings are responsible for more U.S. energy consumption than all transit sectors combined.
Photo: Flickr user biofriendly
Up to three-quarters of the existing U.S. building stock is likely to be new or renovated by 2035. (Chart based on 2005 building sector economy.)
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The super-insulated wall section of the Passivehaus-certified Shift House under construction in Hood River, Oregon, designed by Root Design-Build, compared with a conventionally insulated light wood-frame wall.
Image: Root Design-Build, Inc.
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