News Brief

White House to Release Building Decarbonization Standard

The new standard, announced at Greenbuild 2023, aims to bring all buildings along—not just a few high performers. It comes on the heels of a similar proposal in a BuildingGreen series.

The Biden administration will soon release a national standard for zero-emission buildings. The standard will apply to new construction and major renovation, but details are not yet available on whether or how it will address existing building operations.

a man with a beard speaks behind a podium with the large word "Greenbuild" as a backdrop.

Ali Zaidi speaks at Greenbuild 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Moshe Zusman
Citing climate action as a “north star” for the administration, national climate advisor Ali Zaidi announced the plan at Greenbuild 2023 in Washington, D.C. It is “loud and clear from the science and the models that we need to figure out an accelerated path,” Zaidi emphasized. 

The standard will have three pillars, though details about the third are still emerging:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Improved access to onsite power generation
  • “Connecting buildings to the rest of the economy,” as Zaidi put it—a category that could involve grid interactivity, embodied carbon reductions, and possibly other indirect emission sources

Although a conceptual framework appears to already be in place, Zaidi said that the White House would soon be convening a process to bring built-environment stakeholders together to finalize the details. “Over the coming weeks, we’re going to engage with you, and then we’re going to publish something I think will reflect the consensus on where we need to go together,” he explained. (Disclosure: BuildingGreen was recently invited to participate as a stakeholder in this process.)

Zaidi quickly pointed out that the new standard needs to be in reach for all buildings, not just a few high achievers: “We’re not trying to create a premium product.”

Striking an optimistic tone, Zaidi said there were “massive moonshot opportunities” in the building sector and argued that climate action is not about sacrifice but rather about building a healthy economy with new opportunities for everyone. For example, he noted new job opportunities and claimed that certain climate initiatives are helping bring to market “products that deliver cost savings for building owners and dwellers that are stamped ‘Made in America.’” 

Zaidi went on to say that he views climate change “not as a story of doom and despair but of hope and possibilities. Possibilities that we will build together.”

The proposed standard is likely to align, at least in part, with a similar concept recently proposed on in a five-part guest op-ed series by Joshua Radoff. Radoff dubbed the proposed framework the “Universal Low-Carbon Building Standard.”

Update: We edited this article on Sunday, October 1, to reflect that the White House recently invited BuildingGreen to participate in the development process for this standard.

More on building decarbonization

Net Zero Has Failed. We Need a Universal Carbon Standard for Buildings (part one of a five-part series)

SBTi: To Decarbonize, AEC Firms Must “Own” Clients’ Buildings

Yay, Your Building Is Net Zero! Meaning … What Exactly?

We Must Decarbonize Existing Buildings by 2050—but How?

Published September 28, 2023

Melton, P. (2023, September 28). White House to Release Building Decarbonization Standard. Retrieved from

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