Optimizing energy use is crucial to reducing the carbon impact of the built environment, especially when paired with renewable strategies.

Decreasing the energy required to operate a building.

Producing clean, renewable power on-site.

Buying renewable energy from the power grid.

Storing energy on-site for usage later.

Nearly half of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the building sector. Over the past two decades, the building industry has noticeably improved its impact, but the average energy efficiency of many so-called “high-performance buildings” is actually only 25 to 35% below the previous baseline. We must do better.

Designing buildings to use less energy will continue to be the smartest strategy to achieve net-zero operations. The first certified net-zero-energy (NZE) buildings — which produce enough clean energy on-site to compensate for their annual consumption — were built in the 1990s. Nearly three decades later, there are still fewer than 100 verified NZE buildings. This figure, however, is rapidly increasing.

A group of people walking outside of a building.
Delivering an all-electric building that gives the client more control over their carbon footprint.
Adobe’s all-electric building enables the client to pull energy from grid at times when the mix is cleaner and ensure that battery storage or other on-site energy solutions will be easy to incorporate in the future.
Nearly half of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the building sector.

Renewable technology is becoming more affordable. Over the past decade, the costs for photovoltaics have dropped by two-thirds for both commercial and residential structures. Estimates suggest that NZE buildings have grown tenfold in the past seven years. We cannot address climate change without retooling the built environment.


In Impact by Design 2020 we introduce Strategies for Climate Resilience: a collection of six major areas that have the greatest potential for positive climate impact in the coming years.