A low-energy house in Berkeley, Kabul, and DC

Rick Diamond began this season’s Lawrence Berkeley Labs Science at the Theater series with questions about how much greenhouse gas we emit daily. The 18 pound bag of charcoal — looks like coal — poured onto the stage represents Californian emissions, about half that of the typical American, more than double typical person worldwide. About 1/3 of American emissions are buildings (half residences), 1/3 transportation, and 1/3 industry and agriculture.

So what are the largest sources of residential emissions? Put these in order:

• computers and TVs
• other appliances
• lighting
• space heating
• water heating

Then check page 7 of Diamond’s talk.

Want to know where you can reduce emissions in your house? Check out LBL’s Home Energy Saver. You’ll see how you compare to other houses in your zip code with recommendations on reducing your own energy use. An energy efficient house in Berkeley (all houses are old, so this requires retrofitting rather than new construction) can cut greenhouse gas emissions by half. You can also see typical costs of using various appliances, as well as comparing costs of the washer for cold water/cold rinse vs. hot water/warm rinse.

Nationally, to change our buildings, by category:
• low hanging fruit: $500/person
• big intervention: $3,500/person
• deep retrofit: $18,000/person
• above +3kW photovoltaics (solar panels) for everyone: $28,000/person

The house in Kabul starts out lower emitting, more modest than American houses. Interestingly, both emissions and per capita emissions were significantly higher two decades ago (see slides 29 and 30). LBL created a foam panel, foam sandwiched between cellulose cement boards.

A house in DC
A house in DC

The house in DC is the House of Representatives, plus other house buildings. See more on Greening the Capitol. Surprisingly, some people were still using incandescent bulbs, unusual for public and government buildings: 12,000 incandescent bulbs in desk lamps.

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