Energy efficiency measures in residential buildings are some of the lowest-cost means of cutting energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. According to experts, by 2020, residential buildings will consume 20% of U.S. total energy use – more than the commercial sector – and will contribute 1,350 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to the U.S.’s annual carbon emissions. Still, despite the fact that building insulation, lighting upgrades, and efficient water heating all have a positive net present value (NPV) per ton of greenhouse gases abated, very few home energy upgrades and retrofits are taking place, as compared with the volume of inefficient housing that remains in the market.

In 2012, Nikhil Nadkarni (MCP ’12) studied four U.S. cities’ attempts to promote energy efficiency through building energy ratings and labeling. He found significant variety in the way these rating systems were utilized. Nikhil analyzes the weaknesses in the current approaches and argues for a new model, using a web-based database that promotes transparency and improved accessibility for consumers and assessors. See his full thesis here.

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