The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Arup, in an unprecedented collaboration, have unveiled a comprehensive report analyzing three decades of data within the U.S. commercial real estate sector. Termed the “State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023,” this groundbreaking report not only evaluates historical data but also pinpoints crucial pathways toward future enhancements.
Highlighted within this report are critical areas ripe for faster decarbonization, including deep retrofits in refrigerated warehouses and older commercial buildings built before 1980, comprising nearly 40% of the nation’s commercial floor area. These structures could potentially leverage almost half of the expanded commercial energy efficiency tax deduction outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a significant driver for decarbonization as per the report’s findings.
The report underscores the availability of tools necessary to reduce building-related emissions and emphasizes the unique opportunity provided by new federal funds to swiftly implement critical improvements nationwide. For instance, investments from the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy and climate action provisions could enable the building sector to meet its proportional share of the Paris target as early as 2029.
While proven decarbonization strategies have become more accessible and cost-effective, resulting in a 37% decrease in carbon intensity and a 26% increase in energy efficiency in commercial buildings on average, overall sector emissions have plateaued since 1990 due to significant increases in total building floor area.
Peter Templeton, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, stressed the urgency of deploying proven solutions at a greater speed and scale across all sectors and communities to achieve critical climate goals. Robert Kay, Arup’s Americas Climate and Sustainability Services Leader, highlighted the need to accelerate decarbonization progress on a city and state level to meet these objectives.
Released during COP28, this report complements vital resources like the RMI-USGBC report on embodied carbon in buildings and aims to aid policymakers, advocates, and companies in developing strategies to meet urgent action requirements. Additionally, USGBC has announced LEED v5, aligning building decarbonization efforts with the Paris Agreement’s 2030 and 2050 targets while addressing health, resilience, biodiversity, and equity imperatives.
This monumental report provides a crucial roadmap toward decarbonization for the commercial real estate sector and is available for further exploration here.