Cover: Improving the Energy Performance of Buildings

Improving the Energy Performance of Buildings

Learning from the European Union and Australia

Published Sep 4, 2009

by Charles P. Ries, Joseph Jenkins, Oliver Wise


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More than a third of the primary energy used in developed countries is used to heat, cool, and light buildings or is utilized within buildings. Studies have shown that commercial real estate presents opportunities to achieve substantial, relatively low-cost improvements in energy efficiency. In recent years, the European Union and its member nations and the Australian Commonwealth and some of its states and territories have pioneered policies to promote energy efficiency in buildings and to address market features that make energy efficiency difficult to achieve. The policies address many issues, including the use of such mechanisms as building codes and energy efficiency certificates; unique aspects of public buildings; training and certification of experts; and white-certificate programs. This study examines how these policies have worked and draws implications for the design of similar public policies for the United States. The European and Australian policies are too new to permit definitive assessments of their impact, but the experiences reported to date suggest that effective policies to promote energy efficiency in buildings can be designed using information disclosure, building codes, financial incentives, and benchmarking. This report presents key insights that should be taken into account as the United States considers analogous policy approaches.

This research was supported by the Real Estate Roundtable and the Building Owners and Managers Association and was conducted under the auspices of the Environment, Energy, and Economic Development Program (EEED) within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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