Biden Administration Releases Decarbonization Plan for Homes and Buildings

Contact: Susan Asmus
SVP, Regulatory Affairs
(202) 266-8538

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released an ambitious blueprint for decarbonizing buildings in the country, including homes. The stated goal of the plan is to reduce carbon emissions from buildings 90% by 2050 compared with the 2005 baseline, with an interim goal of a 65% reduction by 2035.

Although the blueprint was created in consultation with other federal agencies and includes many state, local and federal policy ideas, it is a non-binding document that does not make specific regulatory or policy proposals.

NAHB is supportive of finding ways to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in homes. But the plan laid out by the administration relies heavily on building code changes and a shift to electrification in homes, which would decrease choice for home buyers and owners and increase construction costs for new homes.

The plan does note that existing buildings and homes, especially in disadvantaged communities, are a major source of carbon emissions and most buildings that exist today will still exist in 2050, necessitating an extensive retrofit effort. The document, however, does not offer any new funding solutions for what it notes is the main driver of heating and cooling loads in buildings: The envelope in residential buildings and ventilation in commercial buildings.

In discussing retrofitting or remodeling, DOE noted that it may need to develop contractor standards to “increase the likelihood of quality work performance,” and offered its Energy Skilled certification as an example.

NAHB has consistently argued that the only way to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions from homes is to address existing homes. And many of the required updates will be expensive and should be voluntary for owners.

DOE’s blueprint leans heavily on required changes through standards, codes and regulatory actions. For example, when discussing what actions can be taken at the federal level to “lock in cost-effective performance gains,” the options given are:

  • Appliance efficiency standards
  • Support building energy code development and adoption
  • Support other state/local regulatory actions

As climate risks become more widespread, governments will need to take bold action. But huge leaps in standards, rules, codes and other regulations will disrupt a housing market that is already in an affordability crisis. We must remind policymakers that homes aren’t just units of carbon production; they are where people live, and everyone needs one.

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