Government Releases R&D Agenda for Improving Buildings' Energy Performance

On Oct. 22, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released a report describing R&D activities that could decrease use of natural resources and improve indoor environments while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants from the building sector.

The report, "Federal R&D Agenda for Net-Zero Energy, High-Performance Green Buildings," was produced by the NSTC’s Buildings Technology Research and Development Subcommittee under the auspices of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the Executive Office of the President.

Commercial and residential buildings consume about one-third of the world’s energy. In particular, U.S. buildings account for more than 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, including 72 percent of electricity generation. If current trends continue, by 2025, buildings worldwide will be the largest consumer of global energy, consuming as much energy as the transportation and industry sectors combined.

"A coordinated federal effort, as well as strong collaboration with the private sector, is essential to achieving breakthrough improvements in energy efficient and renewable energy technologies in the building sector which will be critical if the United States is to achieve its energy goals," said Jerome Dion, research supervisor in the Buildings Technologies Program at the U.S. Department of Energy and co-chair of the NSTC Subcommittee.

The major goals outlined in the NSTC report include developing technologies, tools and practices that could significantly reduce the use of energy, water and other natural resources, promoting environmentally friendly products and practices, and reducing building material waste while meeting building performance design standards. The agenda calls for supporting these goals through the full spectrum of R&D activities, including use-inspired basic research, applied research, measurement science, development, demonstration and implementation.

The report also addresses barriers to widespread acceptance and surveys policy options to change current buildings sector practices. For example, revision or revalidation of model building code and regulatory requirements at the state and local level can accelerate the adoption of high-performance technologies and holistic design practices for buildings. These new approaches and technologies must be cost-effective, able to meet established performance and design standards, and easy to install, operate and maintain. Achieving these goals will improve both the design of new buildings and the renovation of existing buildings, contributing to the sustainability of future communities.

The report responds to provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005, Public Law No. 109-58) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISAct 2007, Public Law No. 110-140) to enhance federal R&D that could enable more efficient and higher performance residential and commercial buildings.

The report may be found at: http://www.nist.gov.

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