Transition to Healthy and Efficient Buildings

Children play in the courtyard of MidPen's first all-electric affordable housing project with David Baker Architects: Edwina Benner Plaza in Sunnyvale, California.

Bruce Damonte

America’s buildings are fossil fuel guzzlers. From single-family homes to high-rise office towers, buildings burn heating oil, propane, and about one-third of the methane (aka “natural”) gas consumed in the United States—mostly for heat and hot water. Burning these fossil fuels inside our buildings emits massive amounts of climate and air pollution inside and outside, harming our health and the environment.

By building electric and energy efficient from the start and retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient while upgrading furnaces, boilers, water heaters, stoves, and clothes dryers with highly efficient electric appliances that can run on 100 percent clean electricity, we could cut U.S. carbon emissions by 1 billion tons annually and make buildings healthier and new housing more affordable. 

This transition is often referred to as “building decarbonization” or “beneficial electrification.” NRDC works alongside impacted communities and partners to accelerate this evolution by advocating for policies that prioritize communities most burdened by environmental and economic racism, support local economies, and create family-sustaining jobs.

Many U.S. homes already run entirely on electricity; almost 40 percent rely on electricity for heat. New game-changing technologies like heat pumps (which are three to five times more efficient than gas or conventional electric equipment) and induction stoves make it possible to power all homes and buildings with America’s increasingly clean electricity and save Americans money on energy costs. Meanwhile, cities and towns have begun using local building codes and other policies to encourage or require all-electric new construction in order to avoid health impacts from gas appliance pollution, clean the air, and address the climate crisis.

NRDC works with local and national groups to use these options and others to encourage the advancement of building decarbonization instead of continuing to rely on burning fossil fuels on-site, which pollutes our homes, businesses, and other buildings. For more on NRDC’s related work, visit our page on energy efficiency.

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