Electrification of Buildings, New and Old, Furthers Environmental Responsibility and Equity
THE BUILD PROGRAM
As important as existing building retrofitting is, especially for traditionally marginalized groups, initiatives for electrification of new buildings must be part of the plan. Both the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) West and SmithGroup are involved with the Building Initiative for Low-Emissions Development (BUILD), part of a $200 million State of California program to reduce new building emissions. BUILD will be primarily focused on housing for families experiencing economic challenges, with a minimum of 75 percent of these funds set aside for low-income projects and active technical assistance provided to housing developers. The California Energy Commission will administer BUILD, which leverages the commission’s expertise in overseeing the energy code for new buildings and administering deeply impactful energy programs.
AEA and SmithGroup are part of a team that was recently selected as the Technical Assistance Providers for the BUILD Program. AEA has positioned itself as a trusted advisor to affordable housing developers across the state and to serve as the technical lead in collaboration with SmithGroup and other organizations. The team’s cover letter reads: “With California’s ambitious 2030 targets and significant investment in decarbonization efforts, housing developers and design teams understand the importance of shifting to all-electric design. Yet without additional intervention, electrification may be out of reach for the stakeholders who need it most—historically hard-to-reach affordable multifamily housing developers and their design/construction teams.”
ELECTRICAL ENERGY FOR THE MANY, NOT JUST THE FEW
All-electric homes for everyone, with an emphasis on low-income people and communities of color, is an urgent imperative. It’s easy to focus on depressing stories about climate change and the world’s sometimes lackadaisical response to it. But we remain optimistic. We in California are going gangbusters in advancing low- or no-carbon buildings across all socioeconomic groups. We are confident that this will spread to the rest of the country in the near future. If you want to see how close that future may be, take a look at the I-35 corridor in the heart of Iowa—it’s lined with wind farms.
We passionately pursue our work because it is the right thing to do. All-electric housing and environmental justice need to be prominent among our national priorities. We as a country have the tools and skills to reverse current warming trends and move our society toward a restorative, and more equitable, environmental future.
Andrew Brooks is Senior Director of Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) West. Stet Sanborn is the Engineering Discipline Leader in SmithGroup’s San Francisco office.