Existing Buildings: The Biggest Opportunity to Reduce Energy Consumption
The biggest opportunity for greening buildings is with our existing building stock. There are a tremendous number of existing buildings, tens of millions, a far greater number than what is being designed and constructed in any given year. Additionally, the majority of this existing building stock was designed and constructed decades ago, at a time when energy use, water consumption and indoor environmental quality were neither priorities nor major considerations.
As stated, most of our built environment was designed and constructed without the cost of energy or the long term operating expenses factored in to balance first cost decisions relating to energy consuming equipment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s latest report actually indicates that the number one opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions through reductions in energy consumption and therefore mitigate global warming comes from existing buildings as well. Because of all of this, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) offers a rating system dedicated entirely to the existing building market, LEED for Existing Building, Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EB O&M) which promotes high performance, affordable, sustainable and environmentally sound operations in existing buildings.. LEED-EB O&M is unique from all other rating systems in that it deals primarily with operations, maintenance, policies and procedures where all other rating systems deal with the design and construction of new or renovated structures.