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California's Push to Electrify Its Building Stock

Developers, environmentalists, and other experts discussed the challenge of achieving all-electric homes and businesses at VerdeXchange 2019.
March 1, 2019, 1pm PST | Elana Eden
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At the VerdeXchange 2019 Conference, leaders in real estate, infrastructure, and environmentalism charted a path to reducing carbon emissions from the built environment.

A real-estate perspective was provided by Sara Neff, senior vice president of sustainability at Kilroy Realty Corporation.

"The conversation around all-electric buildings may have been going on for a very long time in the environmental community, but it has only recently come to real estate," Neff said, noting that sustainability commitments from major firms have typically revolved around efficiency. "All-electric buildings seem like a new and crazy thing to us."

Obstacles to more sustainable buildings include flaws in the LEED model that can actually discourage electrification, she said, and the difficulty of tracking the carbon impacts embodied in building materials.

The panel was led by Panama Bartholomy, director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, which recently released a report advocating zero-emission building codes to help California transition to all-electric buildings.

"In 2018, building decarbonization really hit the public consciousness," Bartholomy told the audience, citing a $200 million program from the California Public Utilities Commission. "In 2019, we’re going to see implementation … We have a big year ahead of us."

Also featured were Russell Fortmeyer of Arup, the global planning and design firm, and Jeff Addison of Subterra Renewables, which equips buildings with geothermal power. Context for the environmental impact of natural gas was provided by Tim O'Connor of the Environmental Defense Fund. Read an edited transcript in The Planning Report or watch the video at Verdexchange.org.

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Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 in The Planning Report
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