Building efficiency upgrades: the best-kept secret in Washington?

Solar panels are certainly sexier than insulation, and new LEED-certified buildings look better on the front page than aging houses. Are aesthetics the main reason that newer technologies and practices get all the attention, while retrofits and efficiency upgrades are relegated to the sidelines of most conversations about a clean energy future?

Could be… but, as a new report from the Center for American Progress and the Energy Future Coalition notes, retrofitting our built environment also faces a number of market hurdles, including

  • A lack of information for consumers about energy consumption habits;
  • Misconceptions about the costs and options for retrofitting; and
  • High up-front costs for efficiency upgrades.

The report, titled Rebuilding America, argues that using stimulus funds to support efficiency and weatherization upgrades to existing buildings (which are responsible for about 40% of our total greenhouse gas emissions) could reap dividends on numerous fronts. A $500 billion investment from both public and private sectors aimed at retrofitting 50 million buildings by 2020 could “directly and indirectly generate approximately 625,000 sustained full-time jobs and save consumers $32 billion to $64 billion a year in energy costs, or $300 to $1,200 a year for individual families.” And, of course, it could help protect threatened natural spaces

Renewable technologies and green building practices definitely belong in the equation: they’re smart as well as sexy. Combining them with common-sense retrofits creates a true “win-win,” though: we get the best performance out of our existing building stock, prepare it for the eventual integration of renewables, and insure that, in decades to come, our built environment isn’t guzzling energy at unsustainable levels. As our leaders in Washington further consider climate legislation, let’s hope this report makes it to their desks…

via Environmental Leader

Image credit: Bryn Pinzgauer at Flickr under a Creative Commons license