Better sustainability assessment of green buildings with high-frequency data

Yueming Qiu & Matthew E. Kahn (2018). “Better sustainability assessment of green buildings with high-frequency data.” Nature Sustainability 1, 642–649. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0169-y

Abstract: Reducing electricity consumption through green building certification is one key strategy for achieving environmental sustainability. Traditional assessments of the environmental benefits of green buildings rely on electricity consumption data at an aggregated level (such as monthly). Using such data can bias assessment results because marginal emissions factors vary throughout the day. We use panel data on hourly energy usage at the individual-building level from 2013–2016 in Arizona to provide a more accurate sustainability assessment for green buildings. For both Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings, our estimated savings suggest that the majority of electricity savings in summer happen during electric load system peak hours. The estimated hourly savings and hourly marginal emissions damages reveal additional environmental gains in green-certified buildings. We show that traditional methods that ignore the intra-day timing of savings can underestimate the environmental benefit of green commercial buildings by 95%. We also demonstrate that our findings can be generalized to a broader geographical context.

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