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November 13, 2017

Could stretch codes supercharge the green building marketplace?

This week, thousands of building industry professionals converged at Greenbuild 2017 to share their excitement and progress toward advancing green buildings. But while the number of green buildings has grown dramatically over the last decade, the pace of construction still falls far short of what is needed to make a meaningful difference in reducing carbon emissions from the building sector or take full advantage of what the energy efficiency industry has to offer.

For the majority of structures that are built outside of green building circles — where there is little incentive and guidance for constructing energy-efficient, sustainable buildings — the main driver of energy performance is the local building energy code. While national model codes, which provide the basis for local codes, have advanced in recent years, many places mandating earlier versions of the code don’t follow best practices in energy efficiency, leaving millions of dollars on the table in lost energy savings and business opportunities.

Increasingly, states, cities and businesses are ramping up commitments to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector and accelerate building energy efficiency.

To date, hundreds of entities across the country have adopted goals to reduce carbon emissions from the building sector to meet the 2030 Challenge, which aims to make all new buildings and major renovations carbon-neutral by 2030, or the COP21 Paris Accord, which targets an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the building sector by 2050. For these jurisdictions to reach their goals, they need more aggressive building policies than what’s defined in national building code requirements. Adopting more aggressive policies also would give a real boost to the energy efficiency industry by increasing demand for energy-saving products and services used in new construction and major renovations.

Stretch codes have emerged as a promising solution that jurisdictions can use to drive better energy performance in the built environment and set a long-term vision for efficiency stringency in buildings further into the future.

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