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Carbon Neutral Buildings


Making New York healthier, safer, more affordable, and resilient with clean energy

Buildings account for 30% of economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Simple tasks like cooking, heating our homes, and doing the laundry greatly contribute to climate change through onsite fossil fuel combustion. We must reduce our GHG emissions by electrifying our buildings and by making them more efficient, or by decarbonizing our buildings to make them carbon neutral buildings. To reduce our GHG emissions, we must electrify our buildings and make them more efficient. By "decarbonizing" our buildings, they will become carbon neutral buildings.

Building decarbonization is necessary, challenging, and an exciting opportunity for New York. We have the chance to protect our planet and our communities by tackling emissions in the building sector and create jobs, with added co-benefits that come from improving the places that we live, work, and play in.

NYSERDA’s Carbon Neutral Buildings Roadmap lays the framework to decarbonize New York’s building stock by 2050. To achieve this goal, the Roadmap recommends a suite of energy efficiency and electrification strategies that improve comfort and indoor air quality in buildings, via the removal of fossil fuel combustion on site.

What is a carbon neutral building?

A carbon neutral building is one where the design, construction, and operations do not contribute to emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector will greatly help meet the State’s climate goals.

The focus areas of decarbonization are energy efficiency, electrification, and grid interactive load management.

  • Energy efficiency: Minimized consumption of energy required to perform useful work.
  • Electrification: The conversion of an existing building’s heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, and laundry equipment and systems powered by fossil combustion processes, to highly efficient equipment and systems powered by electricity.
  • Grid integrated buildings: An energy efficient building that uses smart technologies and on-site distributed energy resources (DERs) to provide demand flexibility while co-optimizing for energy cost, grid services, and occupant needs and preferences in a continuous and integrated way.

Attributes of a carbon neutral building include the following:

  1. Maximizes energy efficiency
  2. No fossil fuel combustion for building energy services (all-electric end uses)
  3. Produces or procures zero-emission electricity
    • This could include onsite renewables, community solar, or community wind turbines
  4. Designed with flexible loads and/or storage that can respond to grid conditions
  5. Features resiliency measures that protect building occupants
  6. Designed with attention to embodied carbon and refrigerants

In addition to reducing harmful emissions, carbon neutral buildings provide many co-benefits including:

  • Minimize liability & future proof
  • Maximize usable square footage
  • Health benefits
  • Increased Resilience
  • Occupant comfort
  • Safety

Carbon Neutral Buildings Roadmap

NYSERDA created the Carbon Neutral Buildings Roadmap as both a long-term planning document for New York’s building sector to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and as an action plan in the short-term. It is intended to be a living document that is updated every few years to reflect policy and market developments.

The first iteration, which will be released at the end of 2021, covers both new construction and existing building retrofits, with a strategic focus on four building types which represent over 50 percent of the building sector’s energy use: single-family residential, low- and mid-rise multifamily residential, low- and mid-rise commercial office buildings, and higher education (with mid-rise being defined as up to 20 stories).

Please email [email protected] with any questions.

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