The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) plan to regulate carbon emissions is just the latest challenge facing the U.S. electric power system. Technological innovation is disrupting old ways of doing business and accelerating grid modernization. Earlier this year, AEE released Advanced Energy Technologies for Greenhouse Gas Reduction, a report detailing the use, application, and benefits of 40 specific advanced energy technologies and services. This post is one in a series drawn from the technology profiles within that report.

 Building_EnvelopeA building envelope consists of all the elements of a building that separate its interior from the exterior environment. This includes external walls, insulation, windows and roofing. Technological advancements in envelope materials have lowered building operating costs. Examples include high-performance insulation, reflective surfaces, air sealing, and efficient windows. The International Energy Agency estimates that heating and cooling loads across the globe can be reduced by as much as 40% simply by using efficient building envelope technologies.

 Efficient building materials are used worldwide, with the United States, Canada, and the European Union being the leading markets. In terms of specific technologies, insulation and low-emissivity glass have the highest global market penetration while reflective cool roofs have established a mature market in North America. Nevertheless, the advanced building envelope market has potential for new technologies, such as integrated advanced roofs that may include PV installations. One major leader in manufacturing efficient building materials is Johns Manville, whose insulation materials are being used in both new construction and retrofit across all sectors, including colleges, warehouses, hotels, residences, and medical centers. Johns Manville cool roofing products for new and existing commercial roofs can reduce solar heat gain and building cooling requirements while enabling seamless integration of solar PV into the roofing system.

The U.S. market for advanced building envelope installations was an estimated $10.8 billion, with year-over-year growth of 12%. The market opportunity for efficient building materials is even greater, with up to $3.7 trillion in envelope investments projected between 2015 and 2050. The benefits of efficient building envelope investments can be seen immediately in reduced energy use. In warm climates, reflective roofs and walls, exterior shades, and window coatings and films reduce the energy consumption required for cooling; in cold climates, improved air sealing, insulation, and advanced windows reduce energy consumed for heating. The total yearly savings can add up to nearly 30%. Improvements in building envelope technology could reduce global energy consumption in 2050 by the equivalent of the current total consumption of Texas. Residential and commercial buildings in the U.S. account for one-third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, leaving ample opportunity for reduction.