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Building Efficiency Report

Buildings use 40% of total energy in the United States – more than either the industrial or transportation sectors. Technical improvements and cost reductions (see Appendix 3) in building materials, components and energy management systems are enabling progress in reducing the nation’s energy consumption and consequent greenhouse gas emissions with payback periods as low as 24 months. With responsibility and funding for the nation’s largest set of building energy-related research, development and deployment programs, the Department of Energy (DOE) should lead efforts to ensure building energy efficiency is a national priority.

One of the most important things DOE can do to reduce the country’s energy use and dependence on fossil fuels is to actively lead the national initiatives to significantly improve building energy efficiency.

The potential for energy savings is substantial. A recent Deutsche Bank and Rockefeller Foundation study found that up to $279 billion could be invested in building efficiency retrofits in the U.S. and that such an investment would yield up to $1 trillion in energy savings. The National Academy of Sciences’ America’s Energy Future report states that “full deployment of cost-effective energy efficiency technologies in buildings alone could eliminate the need to construct any new electricity-generating plants in the United States” until 2030. And, a recent McKinsey & Co. study concluded "Energy efficiency offers a vast, low-cost energy resource for the U.S. economy – but only if the nation can craft a comprehensive and innovative approach to unlock it.”

The President is an outspoken advocate for the role buildings must play in the Federal government’s overall objectives to increase energy efficiency. Executive Order 13514 requires DOE and other government agencies to “…design, construct, maintain, and operate high performance sustainable buildings in sustainable locations…”

Secretary Chu has also been a strong advocate for improving building energy efficiency: "Improving building energy efficiency on a large scale is a challenge we can't afford not to take. It will create jobs, reduce energy waste, save our businesses and institutions money, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

As a subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, we have reviewed the overall scope of the DOE’s complete set of building efficiency activities, examined the coordination across the Department and more broadly across the Federal government, and looked at the way the DOE’s building-related activities interact with state and local programs and with the private sector.

As detailed in the following report, we find DOE is making clear and significant progress. We also believe there are a number of opportunities to make DOE’s building efficiency portfolio even more effective. This Executive Summary lists the report’s primary recommendations. Recommendations are listed within four broad categories (Organizational and leadership; Program vision, goals and communication, and specific programs; Financing; Codes, standards and government regulations to enhance deployment) and are not listed in an implied order of priority. Full details of the work process, analysis and recommendations follow in the body of this report.