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Life-Cycle Carbon and Cost Analysis of Energy Efficiency Measures in New Commercial Buildings



Joshua D. Kneifel


Building energy efficiency has become a top priority due to the recent energy price spikes and increasing concern regarding climate change. It is easier and less costly to increase energy efficiency in new buildings than in existing buildings, making new construction a key target for efficiency improvements. This paper uses life-cycle cost analysis and environmental life-cycle assessment with extensive building cost databases, whole building energy simulations, and state-level emissions and utility rates to estimate the relative cost-effectiveness of increasing building energy efficiency and lowering the carbon footprint in new commercial buildings. Carbon costs are introduced into the estimations to determine how an additional cost on carbon would impact the decision-making process regarding these energy efficiency improvements. The time horizon, building type and size, and local climate all impact the costs and benefits from both energy efficiency improvements and hypothetical carbon costs. Many energy efficiency measures are cost-effective without carbon costs, and should be implemented regardless of carbon restrictions. The cost-effective energy efficiency improvements not only save money, but also significantly reduce a building's carbon footprint. A cost on carbon results in a greater rate of return on these energy efficiency investments, making many otherwise cost-ineffective energy efficiency projects economically feasible.
Energy and Buildings


climate change, energy efficiency, integrated design, life-cycle assessment, life-cycle costing


Kneifel, J. (2010), Life-Cycle Carbon and Cost Analysis of Energy Efficiency Measures in New Commercial Buildings, Energy and Buildings (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created March 1, 2010, Updated February 19, 2017