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Energy Saving Homes & Buildings

This issue of Continuum focuses on NREL's research to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings. At first glance, energy efficiency may not seem as exciting as our work in harnessing renewable energy sources, but we will never accomplish our nation's goal of energy independence without addressing both the supply and demand sides of the equation.

To put the importance of energy efficient buildings in perspective, heating, cooling, and lighting our homes and commercial structures account for more than 70% of all electricity used in the United States. That costs homeowners, businesses, and government agencies more than $400 billion annually, about 40% of our nation's total energy costs. Producing that energy contributes almost 40% of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions.By 2030, an estimated 900 billion square feet of new and rebuilt construction will be developed worldwide, providing an unprecedented opportunity to create efficient, sustainable buildings—but only if we act now.

Increasing the energy performance of our homes alone could potentially eliminate up to 160 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and lower residential energy bills by $21 billion annually by the end of the decade.

That is why improving the energy efficiency of our homes and commercial buildings is a very big, very important research challenge, and a key element of NREL's mission.

NREL's commercial and residential buildings research involves multidisciplinary teams focused on accelerating the adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency technologies and practices by architects, designers, engineers, developers, and construction companies, as well as the remodeling and building retrofit industry.

Our researchers explore energy efficiency options for both new and existing homes and commercial structures, including a holistic view of performance and the interaction of building components. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, our team works with leading manufacturers, utility programs, other federal agencies, universities, and trade organizations to evaluate and deliver innovative efficiency solutions. Working on a range building projects in the field over the past two decades, NREL has developed proven tools and resources to maximize energy savings.

In this issue of Continuum, you will find articles describing our work with industry and government to develop standards, training, and professional certifications for the home energy improvement professionals, as well as software and visualization tools to maximize commercial building energy performance. You will also learn about our field work assisting the military and local governments to reduce their building energy consumption, and innovative technologies pioneered by NREL to improve efficiency.

Through partnerships with industry and government-funded research institutions such as NREL, we are meeting the challenge of making the United States a model of energy efficiency.

Dr. Dan E. Arvizu, Laboratory Director