St. Louis Aims To Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Changing the Way They Build

St. Louis is a leader in new building energy standards are aimed at reducing carbon emissions, decreasing building operating costs and revitalizing building stock.

According to NPR, the region faces serious threats as a changing climate raises temperatures and escalates the risk of bigger, more serious floods (see Chapters 1 and 2 of this series). Yet local leaders haven’t always prioritized mitigating those risks or done so wisely.

The work being done on building standards is something different — a place where St. Louis is ahead of the curve. But as long-planned efforts to strengthen standards are finally reaching fruition, some developers have questions. In a region plagued by inequities and a city perpetually short on cash, they ask, how do we make sure less affluent people don’t get screwed?

And on a separate track, some Missouri lawmakers would like to block or even reverse the city’s innovations. Backed by homebuilders associations, they’re seeking to force the city back to the standards in place 14 years ago.

It’s part of a long-simmering feud between the state and its biggest metro area, and it could have a big impact on whether the city continues to innovate — or prioritizes growth at any cost instead of taking environmental impacts seriously.

Greenhouse gases are those that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, for example, enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil), solid waste and even trees.

Carbon dioxide is the major gas emitted by human activities, but there are also methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. Each of these gases, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, can remain in the atmosphere for a few years to a few thousand years. Some make the planet warmer by thickening the Earth’s atmospheric blanket.

Since most urban dwellers aren’t farming cows or burning coal, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in most cities are focused on the built environment. According to the EPA, commercial and residential buildings combined account for nearly 40% of total energy consumption in the U.S. — much more than, say, cars or factories.

Read More