Here’s how to design communities that give back as much energy as they take

This article was originally posted by GreenBiz on June 11, 2020. Read the full piece on the GreenBiz website.
Written by Charles F. Kutscher.

Artist rendition of the National Western Center, a net-zero campus under construction in Denver to house multiple activities.

Buildings account for 40 percent of total energy consumption in the United States, compared to 32 percent for industry and 28 percent for transportation. States and cities with ambitious climate action plans are working to reduce emissions from the building sector to zero. This means maximizing energy efficiency to reduce building energy use, then supplying the remaining energy needs with electricity generated by carbon-free sources.

My colleagues and I study the best ways to rapidly reduce carbon emissions from the building sector. In recent years, construction designs have advanced dramatically. Net zero energy buildings, which produce the energy they need on site from renewable sources, increasingly are the default choice. But to speed the transition to zero carbon emissions, I believe the United States must think bigger and focus on designing or redeveloping entire communities that are zero energy.

Tackling energy use in buildings at the district level provides economies of scale. Architects can deploy large heat pumps and other equipment to serve multiple buildings on a staggered schedule across the day. Districts that bring homes, places of work, restaurants, recreation centers and other services together in walkable communities also significantly reduce the energy needed for transportation. In my view, this growing movement will play an increasingly important role in helping the U.S. and the world address the climate crisis.

Read the rest of the article on the GreenBiz website.