November 27, 2018

Combating Climate Change with Resilient Energy Solutions

Dinkin Gardens in New York

By Jocelyn Groom, Enterprise Green Communities

Disasters are going to happen – they are inevitable, and climate change is projected to continue heightening their occurrence. In one week in September alone, three hurricanes and one typhoon threatened parts of the United States and its territories. A 2017 report made to Congress by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that federal spending over the last decade included $350 billion for disaster response, crop and flood insurance, extreme weather and fires. The report anticipated that those costs would increase by approximately $9 billion to $28 billion a year, reaching $112 billion by 2050.

Knowing the full effects of climate change, including how it impacts energy supply, makes it possible to create effective strategies to withstand them. Rising temperatures will create greater and more frequent peak demand for air conditioning in the summer and warm the water required to produce electricity, making production less efficient.

At Enterprise, we are addressing these issues by promoting climate-resilient communities across the country. Specifically, we are exploring the inclusion of a Net Zero Energy (NZE) target — one in which the total amount of energy used in a building is equal to the amount of renewable energy the building produces generally through solar or geothermal — in the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria for buildings certified under the Criteria starting in 2020.

Understanding that extreme weather events undermine the stability of communities, NZE buildings are designed with resilience in mind – and they are so energy efficient that they can replace the energy they use with energy generated onsite.

NZE buildings are designed to provide communities and their residents with both stability and resilience in the face of the effects of climate change, including increased likelihood of hurricanes and other natural disasters. A few highlights of their resilience features:

  • The shells, windows, heating and cooling equipment used in the buildings are so efficient, they can replace the energy they use with energy generated onsite.
  • High-performance insulation and air tightness enable NZE homes to retain interior temperatures even if power is lost.
  • On-site battery storage means the homes can function even when power is interrupted, according to professional builder Bruce Sullivan of the Zero Energy Project.
  • For residents of areas prone to hurricanes, NZE homes can be constructed with materials that make them potentially better able to withstand strong winds.

Living in a new climate reality will require us to adapt our built environment. Homes that use less energy, rely less on the grid and produce less greenhouse gas emissions will be better able to tolerate risk, remain resilient and combat climate change.

To learn more about Net Zero Energy homes, the 2015 Criteria, or if you’d like to be involved in creating the next generation of the Green Communities Criteria, please email us at greencommunities@enterprisecommunity.org.

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