LBNL Report Number
Many of our current national concerns are linked to the quality of our built environment. Energy use in buildings accounts for almost 40% of total U.S. consumption, a much higher fraction of U.S. electricity use, and requires expenditures of $140 billion/year. Although we have made significant advances since the energy shocks of the early 1970s, if we compare our energy use to other industrialized nations we find that much of our energy consumption today is still unnecessarily wasteful. Energy waste has other unfortunate economic and environmental consequences. It diverts scarce economic capital to pay fuel bills or to invest in new energy supply infrastructure and it contributes directly to serious long-term adverse environmental effects such as global warming due to CO2 emissions.
Substantial energy reductions can be achieved in the building sector. However, this will require the concerted action of tens of thousands of individual designers and decision makers, rather than a small number of centralized actions. It is clear that this can be achieved only if each decision maker is well informed, well equipped with proper tools to support the design process, and is strongly motivated to take effective action. Fortunately there are other sound reasons to pursue such strategies. Building design issues that influence energy use also affect the habitability of buildings. Many energy-related elements of the work environment (e.g. air quality, thermal and visual comfort) can raise or lower the level of satisfaction and productivity in our workplaces. In the increasingly competitive global markets, the resourcefulness and productivity of our workforce is important.