Research on Green Buildings
As the second largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in California, the building sector offers great potential to reduce GHG emissions through the sustainable construction, operation, and renovation of new and existing buildings. California’s Climate Change Scoping Plan identifies several actions to reduce GHGs from the building sector, including progressively increasing the stringency of building codes and standards, pursuing voluntary efforts to go beyond code, and completing existing building retrofits. The Scoping Plan states that further research is needed to better quantify GHG reductions from non-energy aspects of green buildings. Comprehensive green building research will be useful in quantifying additional GHG emission reductions to meet our statewide goal of reducing 80% of GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050.
The projects listed below address research gaps within the green building sector.
Climate Effects and Co-benefits of Green Buildings
Quantifying the comprehensive greenhouse gas co-benefits of green buildings (Contract 11-323) This research project created a database of certified commercial green buildings in California to better quantify the non-energy related GHG reductions and co-benefits from building operations. LEED certified commercial buildings produced 50% less GHGs associated with water consumption and solid waste practices and 5% less GHGs due to transportation when compared to traditional office buildings.
Residential energy use and GHG emissions impacts of compact land use yypes (Contract 10-323) The objective of this research was to 1) investigate the relationship between land use planning factors and residential energy use in California's various climate zones; and 2) develop a spreadsheet modeling tool that local governments can use when creating general plans, specific plans, and climate action plans to estimate the GHG emissions due to residential building energy use that will result from accommodating new growth in different land use and building types. The tool is now publicly available.
Measuring the climate impact of residential buildings: GreenPoint Rated Climate Calculator version 2 (Contract 09-344) The objectives of the study were to 1) review, validate, and improve existing methods in the first version of the GreenPoint Rated Climate Calculator, 2) develop new methods to quantify additional GHG reductions, and 3) conduct field testing and obtain stakeholder input. Overall results indicate that Version 2 of the climate calculator is more accurate in estimating the GHG emission reduction potential of green homes.
Reducing Building Energy Demand
Using remote sensing to quantify albedo of roofs in seven California cities (Contract 10-321) This project examined the existing stock of roofs on California buildings and the associated albedos, which is necessary for quantifying the climate benefits of increasing urban albedo through the widespread application of “cool” roofs and pavements. Through this project a protocol was developed for measuring the albedo of building roofs and a database was created listing the building roof albedos in major California cities.
Behavioral strategies to bridge the gap between potential and actual savings in commercial buildings (Contract 09-327) This project evaluated existing commercial buildings using interviews, surveys, and participant observation to examine actual behavior practices that influence energy consumption in buildings. Deterrents to energy efficient practices in commercial buildings included lack of energy data, professional visibility of building operators, and limitations in technical ability to coordinate comfort and energy efficiency.
Identifying determinants of very low energy consumption rates observed in some California households (Contract 09-326) This study investigated California households that have very low energy consumption and characterized the demographics, living constraints, and energy usage behavior of these households. California households with very low energy consumption rates were found to be socially and demographically diverse, and had a wide range of motivations for low usage.
A field experiment to assess the impact of information provision on household electricity consumption (Contract 08-325) In this study, 2,012 households participated in an interactive online educational program that taught residents about their electricity pricing structure and monitored their electricity-consumption behavior. The results of this research demonstrated that educational programs can effectively reduce electricity consumption in households with high electricity pricing structures.
Air movement as an energy efficient means toward occupant comfort (Contract 10-308) The objectives of this research project were to 1) design optimized air movement configurations in test rooms to maximize occupant comfort, 2) quantify potential energy saving from using fan based systems over HVAC systems and 3) investigate the viability of transitioning from an air conditioning system to an air-movement system in various building types. The results of this study show indoor occupant comfort can be provided by fans for ambient conditions up to 86°F (30°C) and 60% relative humidity.