Residential properties are responsible for roughly 17-21% of energy-related carbon emissions globally, reports the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). That figure covers everything from the electricity we use to power televisions and other electronic devices, as well as the fuel we use to heat water and cook. Take into account the carbon emissions released in the manufacture of concrete, metal and other building materials along with the construction process itself, and it’s clear that housing has a considerable role to play if the world is to meet its ambition to reduce global carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

In part one of the Climate Change Mitigation in Real Estate series, we examined how to improve a building’s carbon footprint — using data and analytics from JP Morgan and the Urban Land Institute. In part two, we will explore positive changes being made in residential real estate and how more homeowners are renovating existing homes to make them “net zero,” which greatly contributes to climate change mitigation efforts.

Steps Being Taken to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Residential Real Estate

An example of the steps residential builders can take to reduce carbon emissions in their projects is found in VISION House at Mariposa Meadows. This demonstration project features an enclave of off-the-grid, carbon-neutral homes in Colorado near Telluride. The project was conceptualized by Green Builder Media, a company that builds and displays demonstration homes nationwide with a focus on sustainable designs and building techniques. Additionally, the VISION House at Mariposa Meadows features a wide spectrum of sustainable solutions, from high performance building envelope systems to renewables to enabling technologies, extending into areas such as wildfire risk mitigation, intelligent water, waste reduction, clean mobility solutions, onsite food production, and ecosystem protection.

Building sustainable homes is one example of climate change mitigation in residential real estate, while another option is to renovate existing homes. In fact, “The most sustainable buildings may be the ones that exist,” says Victoria Burrows, director of advancing net zero for the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC). “We promote net zero renovations over building new homes because the opportunities are there to control embodied carbon, such as reducing raw materials.” Thus, renovation reduces the need for new building materials, which require energy to produce, transport and install in the first place.

According to the WorldGBC — a network of national green building councils in 70 countries worldwide — there are a variety of ways to make existing homes “net zero” energy, which simply means that homes are able to produce as much energy as they consume. That is being accomplished through the installation of solar panels, heat pumps, creating a super-tight barrier between the inside and outside, using above-code insulation, and energy-efficient windows, lighting and appliances.

If you’re thinking about renovating your home to be more environmentally friendly, it’s important to note that you will receive tax benefits for doing so! If you made energy saving improvements to your home by installing an earth-friendly energy source, you may be able to claim the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit for a percentage of your total cost you paid. For most types of property, there is no dollar limit on the credit. In this scenario, everyone benefits. The CBC team hopes this information inspires you to consider these environmentally cautious steps when renovating or building your home.