June 11, 2020 – This summer, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change is evaluating options for decreasing carbon emissions related to commercial, residential and industrial buildings.

Maryland’s climate laws require the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 2006 levels by 2030 and set a goal of an up to 90% reduction by 2050. In 2017, 23% of the state’s emissions were attributed to fuel combustion in buildings — 70% from combustion of natural gas for space and water heating.

The Commission has created a subgroup, chaired by Michael Stewart, Sustainability Manager for the University of Maryland, to develop recommendations over the next five months. The overview and workplan presented by the chair at the first meeting include consideration of:

  • requirements for new residential and commercial buildings to be carbon neutral
  • specific dates for electrification of all new residential and commercial buildings
  • on-site renewable energy generation requirements
  • annual building retrofit targets to replace fossil fuel heating systems with electric
  • expansion of combined heat and power systems
  • incentives to support replacement of fossil fuel systems with electrical systems

The state’s strategies related to energy and existing buildings have focused on retiring coal-burning power plants and incentivizing energy conservation improvements.

Energy efficiency in new construction continues to be on a pathway determined by improvements to the national energy and mechanical codes. State law requires adoption of the most recent version of the International Energy Conservation Code without weakening amendments. The 2021 version of the code is 40% more energy efficient than the 2006 edition and the code includes a construction pathway to “net zero” in an optional use appendix. The code development process is focused on continued energy improvements in future editions.

In recent years, private groups such as American Institute of Architects’ 2030 Challenge, LEED Net Zero and ULI Greenprint have pushed the edge of the building energy performance curve. Jurisdictions like the District of Columbia, California, New York state and a number of cities have legislated carbon neutral or Net Zero buildings which will influence the Climate Commission’s closer look at policy options in Maryland.