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Energy efficiency strategies have been gaining popularity in the United States due to rising energy costs as well as the environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, the U.S. used about 17 percent of total world primary energy, despite containing just 4 percent of the world’s population, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As businesses across the country incorporate processes to decrease energy usage and utilize more renewable energy sources, certain trends have emerged. In 2022, here are five energy efficient building trends to look out for. 

Smart Buildings

According to Green Building Elements, the trend toward intelligent appliances is evolving into the push for smart buildings, which “strive to use the optimal and least amount of energy possible.” More specifically, as RCR Wireless notes, it’s any building that can automatically regulate heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems, utilizing sensors, actuators and microchips, in order to collect data and manage it. As technology continues to develop, so will the ability of smart buildings to use energy more and more efficiently. 

Zero Energy Buildings

While the name is a little misleading (zero energy buildings do actually use energy), they do offset what they use with what they essentially produce. According to energy.gov, this class of buildings “combine[s] energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period.” That doesn’t just mean putting solar panels on a building — efficient appliances, building materials, and proper insulation go a long way toward bringing a building into zero energy balance. 

Waste-to-Fuel

Wastefuel takes note of some alarming statistics about the trash we produce: Just over 2 billion metric tons of municipal solid waste each year globally, projected to increase to 3.4 billion metric tons by 2050. Fortunately, there’s the potential to convert that trash into fuel — and as Wastefuel promises, it can be done while addressing the greenhouse gas concerns consuming the planet. Green Building Elements notes it can happen in your home as well, allowing you to “turn your waste into heat, hot water, or even fuel for preparing food,” noting, “It’s relatively simple to install one of these micro waste-to-fuel systems in your home, and it can save you a lot of money in energy costs.” 

Eco-Building Materials

The list of “everything old is new again” building materials given by the folks at Elemental.Green provide some fascinating options for green buildings, including rammed earth (which, as the site points out, worked for the Great Wall of China), straw bales (which recycles from agricultural waste as a bonus), and bamboo (which can grow nearly everywhere in the world and can grow quite rapidly). They even suggest wool insulation, which is more sustainable and safer than traditional insulation and is compostable when it reaches the end of its life. 

Reusable Buildings 

The latest World Green Building Trends report observes, “A critical way to reduce carbon and waste in the built environment is to have building products and buildings designed so that the various components can be reused when the building reaches the end of its lifecycle.” While it’s getting more and more familiarity as a concept, expect more people to be aware of it when the 2022 World Cup is staged in Qatar — Stadium 974 will utilize 974 shipping containers into its unique design and will be able to be disassembled at the tournament’s conclusion.