The U.S. Department of Energy's upcoming blueprint for decarbonizing U.S. buildings by 2050 lays out a national strategy for aggressively reducing building greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while prioritizing equity, affordability, and resilience benefits to communities. The vision includes action the federal government can take to meet specific targets for increasing building energy efficiency, accelerating onsite emissions reductions, transforming the grid edge at buildings, and minimizing life cycle emissions.

The decarbonization strategy reflects the central role that buildings play in achieving economy-wide climate goals while delivering cost savings, healthier environments, and high-quality jobs. Federal agency coordination and support for state and local actions is essential to accelerate the transition to low-carbon buildings.

Six round images arranged in a circle representing Energy Justice, Healthy Environments, American Prosperity, Thriving and Resilient Communities, High-Quality Jobs, Energy and Economic Security.

The building decarbonization blueprint was announced by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk at COP28 on December 5, 2023. The full blueprint is expected to publish in early 2024 and key takeaways from it are previewed below. 

The building decarbonization blueprint targets aggressive but achievable reductions in U.S. building GHG emissions by 2050 to meet climate goals.

Federal leadership and targeted support for state, local, and tribal actions to decarbonize the built environment can reduce total U.S. building greenhouse gas emissions 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels. The approach requires significantly increasing building energy efficiency, reducing onsite building emissions, transforming the grid edge at buildings, and reducing building life cycle emissions—all while prioritizing equity, affordability, and resilience.

 Graphic: Reduce U.S. building emissions 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2050 vs. 2005 while enabling net-zero emissions economy-wide and centering equity and benefits to communities. Cross-cutting goals: Equity, Affordability, Resilience. Strategic Objectives: increase building efficiency, accelerate onsite emissions reductions, transform the grid edge, minimize embodied life cycle emissions.
Children sitting at desks in a classroom, raising their hands, looking at the front of the class and smiling.

Achieving deep decarbonization of buildings is critical for reaching net-zero emissions economy-wide.

Buildings are responsible for more than a third of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonizing the buildings sector has additional broad benefits, including saving people money, improving the quality of homes and businesses, reducing the size of new power grid infrastructure, and enabling fast, secure, and interactive distributed energy resources like on-site solar panels, battery storage, and EV charging.

Pie graph: Agriculture 10%, Transportation 29%, Industry 25%, Embodied from industry 5%, Upstream gas from industry 2%, Electricity generation for buildings 18%, Refrigerants and other fluorinated gases 2%, On-site combustion 8%, Landfills and waste services 2%. Scope 1-3 along right side.

Source: U.S. EPA, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2021, 2021 data, internal DOE analysis. Uses 100-year CO2 equivalencies

Meeting the goals set in the blueprint for buildings sector decarbonization will have far-reaching impacts.

The blueprint reduces building greenhouse gas emissions to within reach of net zero while also reducing building energy use by one third, unlocking billions of dollars in energy and health cost savings, and investing in new clean energy jobs.

Graphic with four panels and icons: Reduce 90% total GHG emissions from building sector, Save consumers more than $100 billion in annual energy costs through efficiency improvements, Avoid 7 quads annual energy use while converting building loads to clean energy, Avoid $17 billion in annual energy costs and add $1 trillion investment in high-quality jobs.

1 Based on reduction targets stated an previous slide plus 100% power sector decarbonization consistent with Biden-Harris Administration goal.
2 Based on Langevin et al. "aggressive" decarbonization benchmark, which maps most closely to the targeted pathway.
3 Based on EPA COBRA assessment of avoided health costs from a 75% reduction in residential and commercial fossil combustion in the contiguous United States (range: $10-23B).

Worker installing a fan / cooling unit on the outside of a building.

Coordinated cross-agency implementation of R&D support, market development, direct funding and financing, and regulatory actions will maximize their impact in accelerating building decarbonization.

Low-carbon building technology RD&D establishes focal points for deployment programs that increase product availability and consumer awareness while reducing barriers to installation. In turn, this enables more aggressive codes and standards to lock-in cost-effective performance gains.

Graphic: Maximize technology performance & affordability, develop markets & enable deployment, provide direct funding & financing, lock in cost-effective performance goals. To the right, a line graph with performance of available solutions increasing over time.

Federal actions to decarbonize the buildings sector will support and complement similar efforts at the state, local, and tribal levels.

Federal agencies can support state, local, and tribal action by providing technical assistance, data sharing and decision tools, capacity building resources, peer information sharing, and recognition programs.

Graphic: Key state, local, and tribal actions, to federal agency support. Fund investments, Adopt and enforce codes and standards, Lead policy to enable greater investments. Provide guidelines and technical assistance for BIL/IRA programs, Create datasets

Abbreviations: BIL, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law; IRA, Inflation Reduction Act; NASEO, National Association of State Energy Officials; NARUC, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.


Icons are original art created for DOE or from the Noun Project under paid license.