Finalized Rule Bans Federal Building Fossil Fuels


Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a mandate to cut emissions from new or newly renovated federal buildings to reduce pollution, improve air quality and adopt energy-efficient equipment.

Through the Clean Energy for New Federal Buildings and Major Renovations of Federal Buildings Rule, the measures are meant to help advance the adoption of cleaner, more efficient technologies for buildings to achieve net-zero emissions from all federal buildings by 2045.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is practicing what we preach. Just as we are helping households and businesses across the nation save money by saving energy, we are doing the same in our own federal buildings,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. 

According to the agency, the standards require federal agencies to phase out fossil fuel usage in new federal building construction or major renovation by achieving a 90% reduction in fossil fuel use for new projects started between fiscal years 2025 and 2029 and completely eliminating on-site fossil fuel usage in new projects beginning in 2030.

The department estimates that over the next 30 years, the new rule will reduce carbon emissions from federal buildings by 2 million metric tons and methane emissions by 16 thousand tons—an amount roughly equivalent to the emissions generated by nearly 310,000 homes in one year, while also reducing infrastructure costs.  

“President Biden has charged the Federal Government to lead by example by transforming its footprint of over 300,000 buildings to be more energy efficient and climate resilient, which means cleaner air and safer communities across the country,” said White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory.

Previous Federal Building Standards

In April 2022, the DOE released new building energy code requirements for federal buildings and proposed new standards for residential room air conditioners, pool heaters and other consumer appliances.

Given the proposed standards and new codes, the DOE estimated that together they could potentially save more than $15 billion in net costs over the next 30 years and reduce emissions equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 14.4 million homes over the same period.

Starting in April 2023, all new buildings and major retrofits constructed by the federal government must be in compliance with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the 2019 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers Standard 90.1 building energy codes.

During the first year of its implementation, the DOE estimated that $4.2 million dollars in operating costs would be saved. In an analysis of states following the latest IECC building energy codes, the DOE found that consumers would see $3.24 billion in annual energy cost savings.

In further research, the DOE noted that residential buildings specifically would result in national site-energy savings of approximately 9%, source-energy savings of nearly 9% and energy-cost savings of more than 8% if they were following the 2021 standards verses 2018.

Later that year, in December, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the first-ever performance standard for federal buildings to cut energy use and electrify equipment in 30% of building spaces owned by the United States government by 2023.

The new standard requires that new and renovated federal buildings achieve zero scope 1 emissions in 30% of their buildings by square footage by 2030. To reach that mark, agencies will reportedly be buying American-made products such as heat pumps, electric water heaters, and other energy-efficiency and building system technologies supported by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Once fully adopted, the new rule is expected to save $8 million per year in building costs. Over a 30-year span, the new rule is projected to reduce carbon emissions from federal buildings by 1.86 million metric tons and methane emissions by 22.8 thousand tons.


Tagged categories: Building codes; Building operations; Carbon footprint; Commercial Buildings; Emissions; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Environmental Controls; Good Technical Practice; Government; Green building; NA; Net Zero Energy ; North America; Program/Project Management; U.S. Department of Energy

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.