Charlotte updates sustainable facilities policy to expand decarbonization in building practices

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North Carolina Construction News staff writer

Charlotte City Council has voted to adopt multiple updates to the Sustainable Facilities Policy (SFP).

The SFP, previously adopted in 2021, is a cornerstone of SEAP implementation as it steers city departments toward designing, constructing and operating municipal facilities harmoniously with the city’s ambitious 2030 SEAP goal.

A key objective of the update is an intensified focus on decarbonization in buildings. The policy now mandates that all new municipal buildings within the city be powered by electricity, marking a significant shift away from reliance on natural gas.

“With the updated Sustainable Facilities Policy, we are taking decisive steps toward realizing our vision of a sustainable and resilient city,” said Mayor Vi Lyles. “This policy underscores our commitment to environmental stewardship and positions us to achieve our SEAP objectives while harnessing financial incentives for clean energy projects.”

For new construction, changes to the SFP include requirements for:

  • New facilities to be all-electric with no new direct fossil fuels to power buildings except for backup generation.
  • HVAC geothermal systems.
  • Building automation systems.
  • Smart surfaces to reduce energy and heat (cool pavement and roofs).
  • Feasibility analysis to determine if a net-zero building is possible.
  • For new construction and major renovations, SFP changes include:
  • Encouraging the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Environmental Product Declaration’s credit – environmental life cycle assessment.
  • Strengthening and expanding on-site solar renewable energy.
  • Scoping energy storage systems (battery) to maximize solar energy.
  • Pursuing LEED bicycle facility credit for facilities that meet the bicycle network requirement, which supports mode-shift and includes bicycle storage.
  • Requiring a periodic analysis for HVAC replacement projects to determine if electrification of systems can occur.

Studies demonstrate that electrification is a core strategy of reducing carbon emissions in buildings. A decarbonization study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that “electrification … can result in a 41 percent reduction in fossil fuel combustion emissions.” The energy use of our buildings is a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions that impact the health and climate of our community, so this strategy makes a difference.

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