Decarbonizing Buildings

The building sector is the largest user of energy in the United States, accounting for roughly 40 percent of total energy consumption. Energy efficiency in buildings, technology, and appliances is the lowest cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating local jobs. Accelerating markets for zero-carbon building technologies and practices creates new economic opportunities while improving comfort, productivity and resiliency for building occupants. We are transforming the market for energy efficiency and leading the way to zero carbon buildings.


Low-Carbon Construction

​At the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, PCC leaders announced the launch of the Low Carbon Construction Task Force, a regional initiative to advance low-carbon materials and methods in building and construction projects. Through this initiative, the PCC has created a shared regional strategy to accelerate innovation, investment, and market development for low-carbon materials by leveraging the scale of the Pacific Coast regional economy. The Vision and Action Plan outlines three pathways along with strategies and actions that will move the Pacific Coast region toward the vision of reducing embodied carbon in the construction sector. Low-carbon materials are materials that result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions over their life cycle. These emissions resulting from material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and end-of-life are commonly called embodied carbon. These ten low-carbon construction policy case studies highlight examples of successful policies targeting embodied carbon in the PCC region.

Thermal Decarbonization

To achieve deep decarbonization goals by mid-century, Pacific Coast states, the province of British Columbia, and cities need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all economic sectors. PCC jurisdictions are committed to collaborate on ways to lower the carbon intensity of heating fuels in the residential and commercial building sector—known as thermal decarbonization—as a key step on the path to net-zero building energy use. In a policy brief, the PCC summarizes key solutions and regional principles to guide work in the area of thermal decarbonization. Strategies for deep decarbonization primarily focus on the pillars of using less energy, decarbonizing electricity, decarbonizing liquid and gaseous fuels, and switching fuels. These are tightly intertwined parts of an integrated approach, and they present complexities that will have to be addressed in a coordinated and thoughtful manner. Thermal decarbonization policy development and implementation will play out differently across regional jurisdictions, which represent a diverse array of climates, economic drivers, electricity generation mixes, and renewable energy opportunities.

Building Energy Benchmarking and Transparency

We aim to have at least 75% of eligible large building square footage on the Pacific Coast report energy data through harmonized, state, provincial, and/or city programs. Among the benefits of benchmarking and transparency of energy use in large buildings is the creation of a crucial foundation for long-term strategies to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Cities along the West Coast have created benchmarking and transparency programs that serve as models for the entire region, including emerging efforts to leverage building data to drive building upgrades.

Energy Efficiency in Small and Medium-sized Cities

To bring the benefits of energy efficiency to our entire region–and increase opportunities for reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions–the PCC helps medium and smaller cities develop effective policies and programs for transforming energy use in the building sector. In collaboration with the Institute for Market Transformation, our partners helped develop and pilot a market scan that these cities can use to assess energy efficiency opportunities and design programs.

Codes and Standards

Energy efficiency codes and standards represent the most cost-effective strategy to help families, businesses, and institutions reduce energy demand, consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. Every year federal, state, and provincial codes and standards result in tens of thousands of petajoules of saved energy across in the Pacific Coast region. Through active technical coordination and leadership, PCC partners collaborate to advance energy efficiency standards, test procedures, and programs across the region. We also emphasize the role of building codes in making progress toward net-zero buildings and advancing progress in other sectors, such as charging infrastructure in buildings to support accelerated adoption of electric vehicles.