Energy use in the building sector is the largest man-made global contributor to climate change, and coincidentally a key sector to start mitigating climate change . Most major reports and studies on climate change address the impacts of energy use in buildings [2-10]. To avoid revisiting problems such as sick building syndrome arising from aggressive building weatherization programs in the 1970s, it is critical that policy makers, regulators, and strategic planners remember that the primary function of buildings is not saving energy.
The bottom line of why we build buildings is for safety and comfort in our homes, to enhance productivity in the workplace, and to ensure an optimal learning environment in our schools. The fundamental services of improving human health, comfort, productivity, and performance should not be compromised as we strive to minimize energy use in buildings. A simple example of the relative value of energy as compared to just productivity alone is that the typical energy cost for a commercial building is less than $2 per ft2 per year, while the workers occupying the building cost approximately $200 per ft2 per year - a hundredfold greater value. A one-dimensional focus on energy could result in unsustainable policies and practices. That being said, this chapter is focused on the specific topic of underutilized mitigation techniques that both increase the sustainability of our buildings while maintaining a focus on human health and the environment. This point is emphasized by the contrasting knowledge base between well-known single attribute mitigation programs (e.g. Energy Star , WaterSense ) and more holistic, multi-attribute programs that focus on sustain-ability and health within the building/energy sector. This chapter acknowledges, but does not delve into, the importance of each topic which must considered for such an approach, including other energy sectors, water use, etc.
A major report on climate change, the IPCC report , recognizes the following potential co-benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation in the residential and commercial building sectors: (1) Reduction in local/regional air pollution; (2) Improved health, quality of life and comfort; (3) Improved productivity; (4) Employment creation and new business opportunities; (5) Improved social welfare and poverty alleviation; and (6) Energy security.
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