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In Focus: Working Toward Zero-Emission Buildings Ahead of Regulatory Mandates

All stakeholders working in unison will benefit the environment while also resulting in positive business outcomes.

Q4 2023
When it comes to driving climate change, the federal government has doubled down on efforts to get owners and operators of commercial buildings rowing in the same direction. The Biden Administration recently announced that it will update the definition of a “zero-emissions” building, which will be published in early 2024 by the Department of Energy, to help establish a new national standard and address one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions — buildings.

Buildings contribute nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions globally, so providing concrete guidelines for sustainable buildings at the federal level will enable building stakeholders to rally together toward a common goal. The new definitional framework aims to accelerate state and local government regulations through changes to various Building Performance Standards that will require net-zero emissions over the coming years.

How to Prepare
Facing these transformative mandates might seem daunting for facility leaders, who must juggle multiple competing priorities. Luckily, there are a variety of steps owners can take to prepare for these impending changes:
  • Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Determine specific metrics that you will use to measure the performance of your building. If you already have KPIs, consider reevaluating them to reflect today’s environment. To align with the new definition of “zero-emission” buildings, metrics around energy usage and carbon outputs are a great place to start.
  • Benchmark: Compare your building’s performance against similar properties or industry standards. This may help identify areas for improvement and set realistic KPIs. Benchmarking allows you to track progress over time, both internally and compared to peers. is a great place to get started.
  • Collaborate with professionals: Working with an integrated energy services company can help you identify smart objectives, build a roadmap to accomplish these targets by implementing the right solution sets, install and service key equipment, and transfer some of the financial and performance risk of sustainability projects to your partner. Ultimately, collaboration helps ensure all goals are achieved.
  • Providing concrete guidelines for sustainable buildings at the federal level will enable building stakeholders to rally together toward a common goal.
  • Educate your occupants: Provide information and resources to your building occupants on how they can help contribute to the building’s performance, such as relying on building automation systems (BAS) to automatically regulate indoor temperatures based on weather and environment, versus occupants manually adjusting the controls themselves.
  • Implement connected solutions: Connected solutions apply analytics and artificial intelligence to building data to help improve your building’s performance.
  • Incorporate energy efficiency: It’s easier now than ever before to improve your energy consumption. Energy-efficient measures such as insulation, HVAC optimization, smart sensors, and updated lighting can significantly lower a building’s costs.
  • Investigate innovative financing: Through innovative funding methods, like performance contracts or public-private partnerships, facility leaders can retain valuable capital that can be redirected elsewhere.
A Win-Win
Despite the challenges presented by ever-changing definitions and mandates, investing in retrofitting buildings for increased sustainability not only benefits the environment, but also yields positive business outcomes. Upgraded buildings enhance cost efficiency, improve public relations, streamline facility operations, bolster local economies, and create safer and healthier environments for occupants.

The time has come for all stakeholders to unite in this critical effort to develop net-zero emissions in buildings. Just as synchronized rowing propels a boat forward, our collective actions can drive us toward a sustainable, climate-resilient future.

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