5 Key Solutions to Transform the Built Environment

America’s buildings are energy hogs. The country’s 120 million buildings consume 42 percent of our nation’s total energy and 72 percent of our electricity. The annual cost to fuel and power our buildings is $400 billion—as much as we spend on Medicare—and much of this is wasted.

The inefficiency of the nation’s building stock represents such a huge opportunity to save energy, save money and help create jobs that President Obama recently ordered $2 billion in energy efficiency upgrades to federal buildings.

The U.S. government alone owns and operates nearly 3 billion square feet of building space. Rocky Mountain Institute, a leader in driving deep energy retrofits, is working with the federal government’s largest property owner, the General Services Administration (GSA), and private partners to achieve energy savings in excess of 50 percent.

(Learn more about RMI’s work with the GSA ESCO Challenge)

However, the sheer scale of this challenge makes the problem very hard to solve. And while Obama’s program is a promising start, we can go much further. Astutely timed retrofits can improve the economics of efficiency and achieve bigger energy savings at equal or lower cost. And integrative design can reveal smarter ways to design the entire building and all its interacting systems together. At scale, such approaches could raise the savings to over two-thirds of buildings’ officially projected 2050 energy use.

Reinventing Fire, RMI’s most recent publication, identifies five key solutions to transform the built environment:

  • Wide adoption of energy-efficiency technologies
  • Integrative design
  • Next-generation building policies
  • Easy to access, low-cost financing
  • Valuing non-energy benefits

In the future, superefficient buildings won’t just use less energy; they’ll also be the key to a transformed electricity system supplying cleaner, more reliable, and more secure power—even when millions of electric cars are connected to the grid. These advanced, intelligent buildings will also serve as a hub of energy storage and energy production.

A story of opportunity and enterprise, security, and stewardship, Reinventing Fire shows how we can shift the most energy-intensive sectors to build a more secure, robust and healthy future.

""Thanks to the partnership of our visionary supporters, RMI can release influential works like Reinventing Fire and reach our shared goal of a world thriving, verdant and secure. Help RMI bring about more efficient buildings where people are more comfortable and more productive—even healthier and happier.

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