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Building Insulation: Highest Savings for Greenhouse Gas Reductions

A major consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, studied the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the findings were:

  • Biodiesel, carbon capture and storage, and many other measures have high costs to reduce emissions compared to 'business as usual'
  • Better Building Insulation, Lighting Systems, Air-Conditioning, and Water Heating are among the most cost-effective measures - all with net income (not costs) over 'business as usual'
  • Improved building insulation has the highest net income!

The intended audience of the study - policy makers - have listened and are starting to enact many changes related to efficiency, such as Building Performance Disclosures and new building codes in BC, Canada, and the USA with much more stringent insulation & air infiltration requirements.

Cost Curve for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

We know that the operating costs of a typical building over its lifetime easily exceed its construction cost - often by a multiple. The conclusion is that building owners & operators should minimize the Total Cost of Ownership instead of only the cost of construction. One of the tools to help is a Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA).

Some other facts from the US Department of Energy:

  • The U.S. residential and commercial sectors consume almost 45% of all energy used (rest is industrial and transportation)
  • Heating, cooling, and ventilation use about 56% of the energy in a typical U.S. home and about 51% for commercial buildings, making it the single largest operating expense

If we're not making a mistake with these statistics, it appears that almost a quarter of ALL energy used in the U.S. is for space heating, cooling and ventilation. Well insulated & airtight building envelopes can reduce the heating and cooling component by up to 70% compared to 'business a usual' probably making it the single biggest and most cost-effective cut in a building's Total Cost of Ownership.

At last policy makers, building owners, operators, and professionals are getting the knowledge and tools to make the right building envelope decisions!

"More than half of all Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in Vancouver come from building operations, so the City has set a target that all new construction will be GHG neutral by 2030."   Mayor Gregor Robertson, City of Vancouver