Spotlight Report

We Must Decarbonize Existing Buildings by 2050—but How?

“There is no pathway to a zero-emissions building sector without zeroing out emissions from America’s 325 billion square feet of existing buildings,” according to 2018 AIA president Carl Elefante.

But making that transition will be a monumental task. Existing buildings are all over the place in terms of age, condition, historic value, envelope efficiency, mechanical system replacement cycles, regional grid fuels, and many other factors. So there can be nearly as many decarbonization strategies as there are existing buildings.

Yet there are some guiding principles that transcend this problem. In this spotlight report, we take a look at how teams are approaching existing building decarbonization—making the case, ensuring it pays for itself in a reasonable time frame, and developing strategies that can be applied at scale.

Instructor: Paula Melton  
Course Level: Intermediate
1.5 AIA HSW, 1.5 GBCI Credit

Learning objectives

  1. Explain the urgency and promise of existing building decarbonization for mitigating the worst effects of climate change.
  2. List five fundamental reasons to decarbonize existing buildings that can help you make the case for building reuse and electrification to clients.
  3. Follow the steps needed to develop an environmentally and fiscally responsible decarbonization timeline.
  4. Understand the impact of local and national policies on strategies for existing building decarbonization.
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