Buildings consume lots of energy – here’s how to design whole communities that give back as much as they take

Read the full story at The Conversation.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has dominated recent headlines, climate change hasn’t gone away. Many experts are calling for a “green” economic recovery that directs investments into low-carbon energy sources and technologies.

Buildings account for 40% of total energy consumption in the U.S., compared to 32% for industry and 28% for transportation. States and cities with ambitious climate action plans are working to reduce emissions from the building sector to zero. This means maximizing energy efficiency to reduce building energy use, and then supplying the remaining energy needs with electricity generated by carbon-free sources.

My colleagues and I study the best ways to rapidly reduce carbon emissions from the building sector. In recent years, construction designs have advanced dramatically. Net zero energy buildings, which produce the energy they need on site from renewable sources, increasingly are the default choice. But to speed the transition to zero carbon emissions, I believe the United States must think bigger and focus on designing or redeveloping entire communities that are zero energy.

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