The Science Behind Our Effort
In the United States, buildings account for almost 50% of annual greenhouse gas emissions split about evenly between residential and non-residential buildings.[1-3] Though electrical power plants are responsible for the direct emissions, they are indirectly a product of the operational performance of millions of disparate homes around the country.[4-8]
Of the major climate change mitigation strategies, improvements in energy efficiency and conservation offer the best combination of practicality, immediate applicability, and financial return on investment. Furthermore, current renewable energy generation alternatives are most beneficial when merged with dramatic efficiency gains in buildings.
In recent years, industry and regulatory agencies have been moving toward a "whole building" approach to the design and construction of our buildings. The science and technology behind this movement are critical components in improving building performance and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the "whole building" approach is also failing to achieve its full potential because it has left out the human component of our built environment. At the scale of a single home, performance is a product of both building technology and the occupants' interaction with that technology. At the scale of entire cities and states, the market penetration of energy and water efficiency is limited by an inability to compare buildings and to internalize performance into economic valuations and community social norms.
Local energy efficiency campaigns have shown the highest success rates when residents make a commitment to improve efficiency, set goals for which to strive, and receive feedback on the performance of their home as compared to their peers.[11-16] As a result of these and other issues, we believe the perpetual tracking and transparent sharing of monthly energy and water performance of buildings will kick start a stalling national effort to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Our project aims to develop an open platform for sharing this building performance in an adaptive way rooted in the participatory paradigm of the modern social Web. Science, public policy, and our collective communities all stand to gain from this dynamic and interactive feedback. Sustainability is founded in a philosophy of transparency, benchmarking, measuring achievement, and readjusting priorities in a perpetual loop of adaptive management. We hope our efforts help to move the building sector of sustainability beyond mere checklists and techno-fixes and into a true unification of environment, society, and economy.
The baselines that form the foundation for meaningful comparisons among homes and other buildings are currently in a beta state of development on this Web site. Our partners are analyzing the most scientifically rigorous methods for comparing across categories, size, geographic area, and other relevant characteristics. Though the individual performance statistics of buildings will stay the same over time, these baseline algorithms will continue to improve as our project grows. We welcome your feedback on our methods.
We look at:
- homes with 12 months of electric service in 2006
- homes with a single building on their parcel
We calculate the gCO2e by using the following conversion factors:
- 1 kWh = 925.0 gCO2e
- 1 kGal = 725.0 gCO2e
- 1 therm = 5300.0 gCO2e
- 1 g = 1.0 gCO2e
- 1 kgCO2e = 1000 gCO2e
- 1 tCO2e = 1000 kgCO2e
- Nassen, J., et al., Direct and indirect energy use and carbon emissions in the production phase of buildings: An input-output analysis. Energy, 2007. 32: p. 1593-1602.
- Architecture2030, Climate change, global warming, and the built environment: Architecture 2030. 2007, Architecture 2030. http://www.architecture2030.org/home.html
- AIA, Architects and climate change. 2006, American Institute of Architects. http://www.aia.org/SiteObjects/files/architectsandclimatechange.pdf
- Brewer, G.D. and P.C. Stern, eds. Decision Making for the Environment: Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities. Panel on Social and Behavioral Science Research Priorities for Environmental Decision Making, Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, National Research Council. 2005, The National Academies Press. 296. http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11186.html
- CBASSE, Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences. Psychological Science, 1998. 9(2): p. 79-90.
- Stern, P.C., Understanding individuals' environmentally significant behavior. Environmental Law Reporter - News & Analysis, 2005. 35: p. 10785-10790. http://www7.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/Environmental%20Law%20Review%20PDF.pdf
- US-CST, The contribution of the social sciences to the energy challenge. 2007, United States House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=1956
- Montgomery, J., Personal pollution citations on rise: DNREC targets open burning, diesel idling. 2007, Delaware Online. The News Journal. Wilmington, Delaware. http://cache.zoominfo.com/CachedPage/?archive_id=0&page_id=2020129320&page_url=%2f%2fwww.delawareonline.com%2fapps%2fpbcs.dll%2farticle%3fAID%3d%2f20070527%2fNEWS%2f705270385%2f1006%26theme%3dLEGHALL&page_last_updated=6%2f23%2f2007+1%3a49%3a55+PM&firstName=Paul&lastName=Stern
- Pacala, S. and R. Socolow, Stabilization wedges: Solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies. Science, 2004. 305: p. 968-972.
- DOE, Building Energy-Efficient New Homes. 2008, US DOE - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Building Technologies Program. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/residential/
- McCalley, L.T. and C.J.H. Midden, Energy conservation through product-integrated feedback: The roles of goal-setting and social orientation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 2002. 23: p. 589-603.
- Abrahamse, W., et al., A review of intervention studies aimed at household energy conservation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2005. 25: p. 273-291.
- Abrahamse, W., et al., The effect of tailored information, goal setting, and tailored feedback on household energy use, energy-related behaviors, and behavioral antecedents. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2007. 27: p. 265-276.
- Gram-Hanssen, K., et al., Do homeowners use energy labels? A comparison between Denmark and Belgium. Energy Policy, 2007. 35(5): p. 2879-2888. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2006.10.017
- Bartiaux, F., Does environmental information overcome practice compartmentalisation and change consumers' behaviours? Journal of Cleaner Production, 2007. In Press: p. 1-11. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2007.08.013
- PNNL, Department of Energy putting power in the hands of consumers through technology. 2007, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. http://www.pnl.gov/topstory.asp?id=285