Reducing electricity consumption through green building certification is one key strategy for achieving environmental sustainability. Traditional assessments of the environmental benefits of green buildings rely on electricity consumption data at an aggregated level (such as monthly). Using such data can bias assessment results because marginal emissions factors vary throughout the day. We use panel data on hourly energy usage at the individual-building level from 2013–2016 in Arizona to provide a more accurate sustainability assessment for green buildings. For both Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings, our estimated savings suggest that the majority of electricity savings in summer happen during electric load system peak hours. The estimated hourly savings and hourly marginal emissions damages reveal additional environmental gains in green-certified buildings. We show that traditional methods that ignore the intra-day timing of savings can underestimate the environmental benefit of green commercial buildings by 95%. We also demonstrate that our findings can be generalized to a broader geographical context.
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The weather data are available from NOAA at https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/. The Energy Star data are available from https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=labeled_buildings.locator. The LEED data are available from https://www.usgbc.org/projects. The high-frequency electricity data that support the findings of this study are available from the SRP, but restrictions apply to their availability. These data were used under a non-disclosure agreement in the current study, and so are not publicly available. However, they are available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission from the SRP.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
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Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation under grant number 1757329. We thank A. Dock, L. Grant, M. Roberts and H. Bryan for helpful comments during preparation of this paper, and X. Bo for help with collecting the data.
Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures 1–11, Supplementary Tables 1–10
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Nature Sustainability (2018)