State of Decarbonization Report: Spotlight on Retrofitting

At COP28 in December 2023, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Arup released the report State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023, which surveys 3 decades of data to identify targeted opportunities for future improvement.

Heather Benjamin

Heather Benjamin is the Associate Director of Editorial Content for the USGBC. She manages the content strategy and editorial direction of the USGBC online articles platform and of USGBC+, the digital member magazine. Over the course of 15 years in the field of publishing and content creation, Benjamin has worked in both print and digital communications as a writer, editor, and content marketer.

February 1, 2024

Opportunities in Retrofit and Renovation of Existing Buildings

Addressing commercial typology trends, organizational commitments, levers of transformation, and decarbonization technologies, the report covers a lot of ground. The section “Retrofit and Renovation” discusses how making the existing building stock greener and more energy efficient will help us reach climate goals. The report states:

Retro-commissioning (RCx) is a valuable tool for identifying and maximizing potential
energy savings. For example, every 1% of retro-commissioning market penetration results in energy savings of almost four billion kBtu, the equivalent of over 830,000 metric tons of CO2 e per year—more than the average of two U.S. natural gas-fired power plants operating for an entire year.

According to the data, growth in commercial sector renovations and retrofits is projected to increase up to 11% annually by 2027 with additional funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“IRA amendments to the commercial building incentive known as Section 179D update the financial benefits for energy efficiency retrofits to existing buildings,” shares the report, explaining that buildings constructed before 1980 that have not been renovated since 2000 make up 37% of the national gross commercial floor area; 47% of the tax deductions provided under Section 179D are tied to these buildings.

“If all existing commercial buildings in the United States were retrofitted with energy efficiency upgrades in compliance with their respective states’ current energy code, $314B of tax deductions could be recognized, resulting in $66B in net total tax savings,” estimates the report.

With subsections on whole life carbon savings, building ownership and occupancy, funding and incentives, and commissioning and retro-commissioning market penetration, the report paints a picture of just how many opportunities exist to decarbonize through existing buildings.

For more insights on retrofitting trends and opportunities, explore the State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023 at