Copen-bloggin': Building Codes, Sexier Than You Think

| Wed Oct. 7, 2009 12:04 PM EDT

Energy efficiency is not particularly exciting. But it is among the best hopes for a quick fix on emissions in the US, and it's another area where Denmark has made significant progress. Improved building codes lowered the overall cost of heating Danish buildings 20 percent between 1975 and 2001, even though the amount of space that needed to be heated in homes and buildings expanded by 30 percent over the same period of time, according to the Danish Energy Authority.

It's not like we don't now about the value of improved efficiency in the US. The McKinsey study on the value of greater efficiency has been cited repeatedly in recent months. It includes a litany of potential benefits that could come by simply making our building stock less wasteful. Energy use in buildings accounts for 40 percent of our fossil fuel use and, thus, 40 percent of our emissions. More than half of that is used on heating and cooling, and much of that leaks out thanks to woefully inefficient construction.

The McKinsey report found that investing in energy efficiency measures for the nation's buildings has the potential to reduce energy consumption 23 percent by 2020, save up to $130 billion a year, cut emissions of 1.1 gigatons, and create 900,000 new jobs. That would put us well on our way to the carbon dioxide emissions reductions being discussed in Congress, for one, and would save Americans a heck of a lot of money. What's not to like?

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