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Hetal Parekh PhD Proposal - MMCH 121

  • CMU School of Architecture - MMCH 121 (map)

Policy Interventions to Catalyze Uptake of Energy Efficiency Upgrades in the US
PhD Proposal by Hetal Parekh, PhD-BPD Candidate

Advisory committee:
Chair - Dr. Erica Cochran Hameen (Assoc. AIA, NOMA, LEED AP)
Assist. Professor, Doctor of Professional Practice Chair, MS & PhD Architecture Eng. & Const. Management (AECM) Chair,
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

Dr. Deborah Stine
Professor of the Practice, Engineering and Public Policy, Associate Director for Policy Outreach,
Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)  

Dr. Aurora Sharrard (LEED AP BD+C)
Executive Director,
Green Building Alliance (GBA)

Dr. Nora Wang (LEED AP BD+C)
Senior Engineer; Associate Program Manager for Building Efficiency,
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)


Over 50% of the US building stock dates before 1970 - of which most have not carried out any major upgrades. Many of these buildings have low performing, outdated and inefficient equipment and systems resulting in an energy intensive building stock (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015). According to a 2009 McKinsey & Company analysis, efficiency improvements using existing technologies could reduce commercial building sector energy use by 29% by 2020. Unfortunately, this target is not being realized due to multiple market and non-market barriers to uptake of energy retrofits. Industry led efforts such as PACE and DOE’s Asset Score Tool have been successful in addressing some of the financial and technical challenges faced by the stakeholders. However, the number of small and medium sized commercial buildings that follow through with audit recommendations remains relatively low. Through an in-depth  analysis of existing local policies, key barriers, drivers and opportunities to promote the uptake of energy retrofits in commercial buildings in the U.S., the proposed research targets specific barriers in an attempt to bridge critical knowledge gap that exists among the building and portfolio owners and managers.

With an aim to maximize energy savings, this research proposes to 1) Identify opportunities to overcome the three biggest barriers to uptake of energy retrofits in commercial buildings, 2) Conduct a policy analysis to evaluate current audit policy and new approaches for increasing commercial energy efficiency investments and 3) Develop a resource to help the building owners follow through with audit recommendations. Based on an in-depth analysis of literature and stakeholder interviews, the focus of this research is to address the inefficiency caused due to the interrelationship between barriers in two major categories accountable for under-investment -  Financial and Knowledge barriers. By analyzing and overcoming these key unaddressed impediments to improving energy efficiency, the proposed research will strengthen the coordination between all the stakeholders, and catalyze energy retrofits in the existing commercial building stock. Additionally, it will contribute to the development of local policy that can be utilized by cities interested in accelerating energy efficiency investments - in turn charting a path to an energy efficient building stock.

View the PhD abstract and PhD proposal at these links.