Helping Our Infrastructure to Become Greener

Human beings may have proven themselves to be good at a host of different things, but truth be told, there is still an awful little that we do better than growing on a consistent basis. This unwavering commitment towards improving under all circumstances has brought the world some huge milestones, with technology emerging as quite a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which guided us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for one hot second, it will become abundantly clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiate a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, the next thing this revolution did was to scale up our experience from every different direction, but even after achieving a feat so notable, technology will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new discovery ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

The researching teams at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston University, and Oregon State University have successfully collaborated to develop a new method for calculating the health and climate impacts of reducing buildings’ energy consumption. Named “Co-benefits of the Built Environment” (CoBE), the stated methodology works by empowering building owners, operators, and investors to easily make future projections regarding the climate and health co-benefits of their energy decisions, and guess what, they can do so up until the year 2050. But how can we use this methodology on an actionable level? Well, for starters, building owners or operators will be asked to provide key information in the context of a particular building or even a set of buildings. The information requested is going to include stuff like location, size, energy sources, and energy consumption. Anyway, once these details are entered in, the tool gets down to action by calculating the building’s energy and emissions footprints, as well as climate and health impacts in dollar values. Such a lowdown, like you can guess, should inform us on co-benefits under different energy use scenarios. Now, moving on to what factors actually help CoBE in delivering this sort of extensive information, the methodology basically leverages multiple models and datasets. For instance, to project emissions reductions from energy savings, CoBE uses energy and emissions projections of the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Next up, when the idea is quantifying climate impacts in monetary terms, the technology uses Social Cost of Carbon, a tool developed by the U.S. government Interagency Working Group responsible for monetizing the long-term impacts related to every ton of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, to quantify health impacts, CoBE banks upon premature deaths caused by exposure to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), one of the most harmful pollution types out there understood to be caused by fossil fuel combustion. It also takes into account their associated health costs.

“Health benefits often go unvalued in decisions around energy strategy, carbon offsets, and other carbon emissions reduction measures,” said Jonathan Buonocore, assistant professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health and co-author of the paper explaining the study. “The CoBE tool can put a monetary value on the health benefits of emissions reductions.”

The researchers have already tested their brainchild through a specialized case study, which modeled the effect of a hypothetical reduction in electricity use among buildings across the U.S. from 2018 to 2050. Going by the available details, they discovered that a building’s geographic location would play an important role in determining the health and climate impacts from reductions in energy use. In a more practical sense, for every dollar of electricity savings in 2018, one region in Wisconsin and Michigan would see $0.52-$0.70 in health and climate co-benefits due to the reduced use of energy supplied by fossil fuels. If we do one better and take up a rather long-term view, in the year 2050, for every dollar of electricity savings, we can expect another $0.02-$0.81 of additional savings in health and climate co-benefits.

“The CoBE tool provides a user-friendly way for decision-makers and other stakeholders to assess their current performance and to quantify health and climate co-benefits of different energy conservation scenarios, to improve the health and well-being of people and our planet,” said Parichehr Salimifard, assistant professor of architectural engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University and lead author of the paper.

Copyrights © 2024. All Right Reserved. Engineers Outlook.