Report: U.S. Commercial Buildings Need Decarbonization Breakthroughs



Arup and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have released a report on the decarbonization of the U.S. commercial real estate sector. The report revealed that the U.S. has made notable, but uneven progress in decarbonizing commercial real estate, with high-opportunity areas like refrigerated warehouses and older commercial buildings identified for more rapid decarbonization. Despite commercial buildings becoming 37% less carbon intensive and 26% more energy efficient, overall sector emissions have remained flat since 1990 due to increases in total building floor area.

Arup and USGBC Release Groundbreaking Decarbonization Report

Arup and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) have launched a pioneering report on the United States’ commercial real estate sector, the State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023. The study was unveiled today at COP28 and showcases the USA’s uneven yet vital progress in decarbonizing commercial real estate.

The inaugural State of Decarbonization report, the first of its type, offers historical data and future improvement opportunities. It identifies fast decarbonization areas like deep retrofits in refrigerated warehouses, where emissions have grown recently, and older commercial buildings. Buildings pre-1980 account for nearly 40% of gross commercial floor area in the U.S. and could benefit greatly from the expanded commercial energy efficiency tax deduction in 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act.

The report emphasizes that the U.S. possesses the tools needed to reduce building-related emissions. New federal funds present the real estate sector an immediate opportunity to deploy crucial improvements across the nation. Investments through the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy provisions could let the building sector meet its share of the Paris target early, in 2029.

Despite commercial buildings becoming more energy efficient and less carbon intensive, overall sector emissions remain unchanged since 1990. This is due to significant increases in total building floor area. “We must accelerate decarbonization progress from where each city and state are now to reach our objectives,” says Robert Kay, Arup’s Americas Climate and Sustainability Services Leader.

The State of Decarbonization 2023 report is released as Arup and other global collaborators convene at COP28. This reflects Arup’s continued commitment to addressing climate change in the built environment.

To read the full State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023 report, click here.

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