Earth Day celebrations bring to light importance of greening buildings

April 24, 2012

The celebration of Earth Day on April 22 provided a chance for Americans to consider the impact that their actions have on the environment, and it also represented a time to applaud efforts to help reduce emissions produced by commercial buildings, which currently account for 40 percent of energy consumption in the U.S.

According to a release from Johnson Controls, in celebration of Earth Day, it announced the winners of a contest geared around reducing the carbon emissions for structures in U.S. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects were graded on the equivalent in acres of pine forests that would be saved through upgrades to buildings.

The release noted that the U.S. Green Building Council has estimated that carbon emissions from buildings are predicted to grow faster than any other sector in the coming decades, highlighting the need for more energy efficient practices in the real estate market.

"These organizations have already made significant environmental improvements while at the same time attacking energy waste and reducing operational costs," Dave Myers, president of Johnson Controls Building Efficiency, said of the organizations that reduced their carbon emissions. "We recognize those who have committed to making their organizations more sustainable, their facilities more efficient, and their occupants more comfortable. Importantly, each one of these projects will also have strong financial paybacks."

This quest for reduced emissions has led to the development of several organizations and agencies in the U.S. geared toward energy efficient buildings. One such effort, the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC), was designated by the U.S. Department of Energy to be an innovation HUB for the sector.

The GPIC is working closely with institutions across the Greater Philadelphia region to promote the use of energy efficient building technology and to initiate retrofit projects, both to help companies reduce emissions and save on operating costs.

A Massachusetts-based company is also looking to change the landscape of the building industry, as Essess is building a giant database mapping residential and commercial properties across America. CNN reported that the company is using Google's Street View in conjunction with multi-spectral thermal camera technology to assess the energy consumption levels of structures.

"The purpose of the approach is to provide a snapshot of the energy efficiency. It answers about 20-30% of the problems of your home." Storm Duncan, the company's chief executive officer, told the news outlet. "I consider it a fabulous way to start a broader dialogue about the more comprehensive (energy) profile."