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The Impact of Building Codes and Climate Change

When it comes to tackling climate change, eye-catching solar panels, whirring wind turbines, lightning-fast electric vehicles, clean hydrogen electrolyzers, and other innovative technologies often capture most of the attention.

However, experts argue that modifications to building codes—the detailed, technical regulations that dictate the design and construction of homes and apartment buildings—can significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. This impact becomes even more substantial when applied to thousands of new homes built annually.

According to MPR News, simply by adopting the latest model energy code, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Minnesota could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 9 million metric tons, and save an estimated $1 billion in energy costs.

While Minnesota has made huge progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in electricity generation, the state’s buildings still consume an enormous amount of energy, and now contribute about 40 percent of the state’s climate-warming emissions.

“Part of the challenge that we face is that residential emissions are still rising. We are still adding more climate warming emissions from the residential sector,” said Eric Fowler, senior policy associate with the clean energy advocacy group Fresh Energy.

Emissions from homes and buildings grew 14 percent in the past 15 years, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency — largely because most buildings in the state are heated by natural gas or oil.

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