Climate bright spot: Building sector decarbonization is well underway

Read the full story from The Hill.

We are witnessing the remarkable transformation of the U.S. building sector with record emissions reductions that began in 2005.

In the U.S., from the Industrial Revolution (late 1700s) to 2005, as the buildings sector grew, so did sector energy consumption and CO2 emissions. This makes sense. We added about 3 billion to 5 billion square feet to our building stock each year, and as those buildings consumed energy to operate — electricity, natural gas, heating oil, etc. — energy consumption and emissions in the sector went up.

However, in 2005, something extraordinary happened; building operating energy and emissions decoupled from building sector growth:

  • Since 2005, the carbon intensity of the entire U.S. building stock (CO2 emissions per square foot of floor area) actually declined by 39.8 percent for residential and 43.7 percent for commercial buildings.
  • From 2005 to 2022, the U.S. added 62.5 billion square feet to its building stock — the equivalent to adding about six cities the size of Boston each year – but building sector operating ­energy consumption did not increase (down 3.5 percent) and CO2 emissions declined 28.4 percent.
  • From 2010 to 2022, residential and commercial building energy consumers saved approximately $530 billion total from 2010 projected energy costs. That means more money is being spent throughout the economy on clothing, food, education, travel, electronics, construction, equipment and housing.

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