In a significant move to address the climate crisis, the Biden administration is taking a proactive approach to define “zero-emission” buildings. This newly established national standard aims to tackle one of the most substantial contributors to climate change in the United States: buildings. Though it’s not legally binding, this definition has the potential to help real estate developers navigate the complex web of state and local regulations designed to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. 

Defining “Zero-Emission” Buildings

The new national standard for zero-emission buildings will be based on three pillars: buildings must be energy-efficient, they should produce no on-site emissions, and finally, they must rely on 100 percent renewable energy sources. The Biden administration believes this triple-pronged approach will set a clear and comprehensive standard for environmentally responsible construction and operation.

From a climate perspective, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The Environmental Protection Agency has calculated that commercial and residential buildings are responsible for nearly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions when factoring in their electricity consumption. In lieu of a federal definition, states have been setting their own standards. California leads the pack with requirements for new residential buildings to be net zero by 2020 and commercial buildings to be net zero by 2030. At ID360 we help local government officials demonstrate leadership in the community by developing policies that advance those set out by the state legislature. 

In addition to the zero-emission building standard, the Biden administration is taking steps to bolster the nation’s resilience against extreme weather events and climate-related disasters. This move comes following costly disasters, including wildfires in Maui and Hurricane Idalia in Florida. These extreme events have become more frequent and severe due to climate change, resulting in substantial economic losses. To address this, the administration is unveiling a national resilience strategy, aiming to embed the importance of climate adaptation and mitigation into all federal planning and management decisions.

The Biden administration’s move to define “zero-emission” buildings is a crucial step towards combating climate change. Establishing a national standard provides clarity, consistency, and a benchmark for the construction industry and those of us working to advance more sustainable practices. With these initiatives, the United States moves closer to a more sustainable and climate-resilient future.