Biden administration actions will lead to cleaner buildings

Defense Production Act for the production of clean energy

The Defense Production Act (DPA) gives the president the power to direct private companies to prioritize orders from the federal government. More recently, DPA has been used to make protective gear during the coronavirus pandemic. Now President Biden is using the law to authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) to rapidly ramp up domestic production of a number of clean energy technologies, including heat pumps, building insulation, solar panel parts, equipment used to manufacture and use cleaner fuels. , and critical power grid infrastructure. The White House and DOE will bring stakeholders together to determine how to maximize the impact of the tools made available through the use of the DPA.

Existing buildings are one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution in the world. countries, and eliminating emissions from these millions of buildings will require improving their efficiency while significantly reducing their consumption of fossil fuels. Insulation, heat pumps and solar panels are some of the most critical technologies needed to achieve our 2050 climate goals. Increasing domestic manufacturing of these products will make them more readily available to American families by reduce retail costs, smooth out supply chain issues, and create a strong market for these technologies. Furthermore, the benefits of job creation are substantial. Recent reports from Rewiring America estimate that 500,000 manufacturing jobs could be brought back to the United States in the solar and clean heating Industriesand a supplement 450,000 installation and maintenance jobs could be supported by the electrification of the clean heating sector.

Whereas Using the DPA to rapidly increase domestic manufacturing of clean energy efficient products will certainly be beneficial, this is just the beginning. There is still an extremely urgent need for Congress to act to enact additional tax incentives and measures to advance manufacturing and deployment in the energy sector.

National Initiative to Advance Building Codes

lead by example

This initiative commits the federal government to “lead by example” by improving the energy consumption of federal buildings, which will help drive the market towards greater efficiency. The federal government has over 130,000 buildings across the country – many of which are in need of retrofitting – so this initiative could have a huge impact on decarbonizing those buildings.

  • All new construction and renovation projects over 25,000 gross square feet will be designed to be net zero emissions, which includes all-electric appliances and equipment, and significant energy efficiency beyond the minimum energy code required. This takes effect from now, in financial year 2022.
  • There will be the very first Federal Building Performance Standard, which is currently under development. This will establish the measures and tracking methods to achieve the federal carbon emissions reduction targets: Reduce emissions by 50% by 2032 and net zero emissions from federal buildings by 2045.
  • The White House Council on Environmental Quality will study how to integrate resilience standards to protect against natural hazards such as floods and fires.

Ministry of Energy building code funding

The bipartisan Infrastructure Act specified $225 million to support energy codes in fiscal years 2022 through 2026, a marked increase for a program that historically has an annual budget of around $10 million. This funding gives the Department of Energy (DOE) a transformative opportunity to support states in adopting, implementing, and complying with updated energy codes.

The agency recently solicited comments on a request for information on how to structure the funding opportunity and which projects to prioritize. In joint comments, the NRDC and the Building Electrification Institute (BEI) expressed strong support for energy codes that transition to efficient, all-electric new construction as soon as possible. We called for DOE funds to be used to prioritize building decarbonization through a combination of efficiency and electrification, while addressing equity issues. We support projects that incorporate workforce training, innovative approaches to code implementation (including extended codes and standards for existing buildings), and dedicated enforcement and compliance strategies .

The DOE is currently reviewing comments and will issue a funding announcement. In the coming months. The Infrastructure Act specifies that projects must include a state agency, but our comments highlight the importance for projects to include partners who have a real impact on – or are impacted by – new codes and policies. In many states, adoption and/or enforcement of the code is managed at the local level, so the DOE must ensure that these jurisdictions can access funding. Many local jurisdictions are leading the way on energy codes and policies, even when their national policies lag behind. We expect the DOE to emphasize the importance of partnerships in funding projects, and state and local governments should stay tuned to take advantage of this opportunity to transform their energy codes.

Federal Funding and Funding

Throughout the federal government, there are a large number of programs that fund or finance the construction of buildings. These range from funding housing projects through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to specifying codes that should be used during disaster reconstruction with funding from FEMA. The administration’s building codes initiative outlines an interagency effort to “ensure that construction activities receiving federal funding or funding will meet or exceed the latest building codes to the greatest extent possible, regardless of local code adoption.

Given the extensive portfolio of buildings that potentially receive federal funding, the impact could be immense. A number of federal programs, including Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgages, loans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Partnership Grants HUD HOME investment plans already include efficiency requirements, but are significantly outdated. . These programs account for about 20 percent of all new residences and about one-eighth of new units in multi-family buildings. Additionally, the government-sponsored companies of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are involved in almost half of all mortgages for single-family and multi-family properties, but there are no minimum efficiency requirements for these. properties.

A recent analysis by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that, if new homes receiving federal support were to meet updated energy codes, there would be a net savings by 2050 of more than $27 billion, with emissions reductions of more than $275 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 59 million cars. Requiring ENERGY STAR certification for new homes would save an additional $16 billion and $154 million tons of CO2. And requiring heat pumps for space heating and water heating would have the biggest impact while being incredibly cost effective: ACEEE found that ENERGY STAR all-electric homes would achieve significant savings in just one year.

STAR ENERGY new houses

Speaking of ENERGY STAR, the Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized the latest version of its ENERGY STAR New Homes for Single Family (Version 3.2) and Multifamily (Version 1.2) Homes, which will require homes to be approximately 10% more efficient than the 2021 version. national model code. There are various versions of ENERGY STAR in place based on minimum state base codeand many states are still using version 3, resulting in less efficient performance houses. Effective January 1, 2023, all states will be required to meet version 3.1 regardless of their base energy code status, and states that have updated their base code to IECC 2021 will be required to meet version 3.2 . Version 3.2 includes a phased implementation of stringent building envelope requirements, which ensures ENERGY STAR new homes will save homeowners money while ensuring comfort.

Low consumption buildings powered by clean energy are more resilient, save energy and reduce carbon emissions. Building them right the first time means avoiding costly renovations at a later date: it just makes sense. President Biden’s National Initiative to Advance Building Codes builds on the power of the federal government to advance building codes — and the resulting climate and energy savings will benefit everyone.

Marjorie N. McClure