The Road to Net-Zero Emissions Passes Through American Buildings

Commercial buildings account for 16% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. The General Services Administration (GSA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) have issued an RFI (request for information) to be able to identify technologies that can help cut carbon emissions from commercial buildings, in support of the ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050.

The RFI — Technologies for Net-Zero Carbon Buildings — from the GSA Green Proving Ground and the DOE Office of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy aims to support technologies and solutions that are ready for evaluation in inhabited, operational buildings and have significant market potential in the United States.

Wale Odukomaiya, who works as the NREL research engineer and RFI technology lead in the Building Technologies and Science Center, said, “Our objective is to enable the wider adoption of technologies which will decarbonize U.S. commercial buildings.” “In a word, we’re seeking for innovations in the early stages of commercialization to help them transition to the next stage of market adoption via field testing.”

Technology Evaluation in Three Broad Categories:

  • Low-Carbon Building/High-Performance Technologies and Solutions: Electrification of main building loads, integrated and larger-scale heat pump systems, building envelope retrofits, and retrofit heat recovery systems are all technologies of interest.

Creating-integrated photovoltaics (PV), high-efficiency PV, ways to further integrate PV as well as storage into the building management systems, geothermal and solar, on-site dispersed wind, hydrogen fuel cells, and electric car fleet charging solutions are just a few examples of on-site energy generation and storage systems.

  • Capture Technologies or Greenhouse Gas Reduction: These include on-site carbon capture for fuel-fired operations and next-generation refrigerant technologies with minimal or no global warming potential.

Kevin Powell, who works as the GSA Program Director in charge of the Center for Emerging Building Technologies, said, “We are particularly thrilled for this year’s RFI since it will be key to leading future investments and activities to unleash the power of the next-generation building technologies.” “We’re looking forward to assisting in the technical validation of the innovations as well as assessing their potential for future deployment.”

Building Innovations for a Decade

Over the course of the GSA’s Green Proving Ground program’s ten years, 90 technologies have been chosen for the trial, with 23 being deployed at over 500 buildings across the agency’s real estate portfolio. Through the program’s technology evaluation, a total of $203 million in the life cycle cost avoidance has been realized.

Five American-created technologies were chosen to be showcased in GSA facilities in response to the most recent RFI, which was posted in December 2020. These technologies are intended to aid in the maintenance of healthy indoor air, the development of building resilience, and the enhancement of on-site PV. On the GSA’s Green Proving Ground Ongoing Assessments website, you can learn more about these next-generation construction technologies and other ongoing evaluations.

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