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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.

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.

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.

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.

Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance

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Did You Know?

People in the U.S. spend about 90% of their time indoors.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency (1987). The Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study.


Case Study

Occupant Comfort

Operable Windows

Comfortable workers are more likely to be productive and engaged with their work than those who struggle to work in spaces that create barriers and stresses. With an ever increasing number of environmental issues to be mindful of when designing spaces, GSA is developing practices that support both sustainability and worker comfort.

View Case Study

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