Research and Economic Development, Office of


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The construction and buildings sector consumes enormous amounts of energy, clean water, and materials. Buildings use about one-third of the world’s energy — a proportion that will continue to increase as the population grows and becomes more urban and more affluent (Griffith et al. 2007). In the United States today, the buildings sector accounts for 40% of the primary energy use, compared to 32% for the industrial sector and 28% for the transportation sector. The use of electric power and heat in the buildings sector also accounts for about 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). If current trends continue, buildings worldwide will become the top energy consumers by 2025, and are likely to use as much energy as industry and transportation combined by 2050 (DOE 2007a). More effective stewardship of our resources contributes to the security, environmental sustainability, and economic well-being of the nation. Buildings present one of the best opportunities to economically reduce energy consumption and limit GHGs. Improving how buildings are designed, built, operated, renovated, and recycled could significantly alter how buildings use energy and other basic resources. This challenge will require the development of new, cost-effective building technologies, practices, and standards, the revision and revalidation of building requirements, and the holistic design of energy and resource use within the building, building site, campus, and community. These include the new technologies and strategies to achieve net-zero energy buildings, which over a set time period (typically a year) produce as much energy as they consume, enabling buildings to be energy self-sufficient.