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Buildings' Greenhouse Gas Impact


Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources and account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change. In the U.S., buildings account for 40% of all CO2 emissions.

Source: Energy Information Administration (2009). Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the US.


Related Topics


Absolute Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Absolute greenhouse gas emissions are the total greenhouse gas emissions without normalization for activity levels and includes any allowable consideration of sequestration.

Sustainability.gov | Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

A range of human activities cause the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (e.g., the release of carbon dioxide during fuel combustion). These gasses can damage or be trapped in the earth’s atmospheric layers, contributing to global climate change.

EPA | Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

Greenhouse Gases

Gases that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. Examples of greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons. The primary source of carbon dioxide emissions is the combustion of fossil fuels for energy.

EPA | Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

FEMP | Annual Greenhouse Gas and Sustainability Data Report

Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings are a set of sustainable principles for integrated design, energy performance, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, materials, and climate change adaptation aimed at helping Federal agencies and organizations:

  • Reduce the total ownership cost of facilities
  • Improve energy efficiency and water conservation
  • Provide safe, healthy, and productive built environments
  • Promote sustainable environmental stewardship

Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings and Associated Instructions

Determining Compliance with the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings

Natural Resources

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) defines “natural resources” or “resources” as land, fish, wildlife, biota, air, water, groundwater, drinking water supplies, and other such resources managed by or otherwise controlled by the United States, any state or local government, any foreign government, or any Indian Tribe.

Source: US Department of Interior website, About Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Programs

Scope 1 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by the Federal agency.

Sustainability.gov | Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance

Scope 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Direct greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the generation of electricity, heat, or steam purchased by a Federal agency.

Sustainability.gov | Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance

Scope 3 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions from sources not owned or directly controlled by a Federal agency but related to agency activities, such as vendor supply chains, delivery services, and employee travel and commuting.

Sustainability.gov | Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance

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Did You Know?

40% of U.S. architects, engineers, contractors, building owners and building consultants report that the majority of building work was green in 2012. It is expected that 53% of these U.S. firms will be engaged in mostly green building work by 2015. 44% of all nonresidential building project starts were green in 2012 as well, up from 2% in 2005. Green buildings hold strong appeal for both commercial and institutional (including government) owners.

Source: McGraw Hill Construction (2013). 2013 World Green Building Trends SmartMarket Report.


Case Study

Sense of Place

Skylight and Sculpture

What makes a workplace special? What fosters a sense of attachment, engagement and identity? These are the kinds of questions that underlie the sense of place. The workplace is increasingly seen as a “brand” that conveys not only a place, but also the mission and values of the organization. The GSA workplace program combines branding and sense of place with sustainable approaches to create special places imbued with meaning and purpose.

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