Cities - 18/April/2019

World watches as California goes for net zero buildings

California’s policies on the decarbonisation of buildings can become a model of what works in a thriving economy and what measures should be adopted more broadly in the US and beyond

As the world’s fifth largest economy and a pioneer of environmental laws and policy, all eyes are on California as it turns its attention to freeing its buildings of emissions. Ensuring new houses are equipped with solar panels and that they use no more renewable energy than they consume over the course of the year are top of the list, but existing houses and commercial buildings are also in line for an overhaul as part of the state’s bid to be carbon neutral by 2045


What’s happening: Rooftop solar photovoltaics have been made mandatory in California from 2020 for most new-build single-family homes and multi-unit residential buildings up to three storeys tall

The challenge: Decarbonising buildings is a vital part of the energy transition. Globally they generate nearly 40% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. America’s stock is responsible for a significant volume of these emissions with US buildings likely on average to use twice the energy per square foot (0.09 m2) as buildings in Europe

Affordability: The new measures should help California’s new buildings achieve close to net zero energy use. They will add about $40 a month to an average mortgage payment, but immediately save consumers $80 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting

Key quote: “The world looks to — and expects — California to lead the way.” ...

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