Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is working to catalyse the zero carbon residential revolution through its REALIZE initiative.

REALIZE is committed to creating a future where buildings are heated, cooled, and powered using renewable, non-greenhouse gas-emitting resources, and where historically disenfranchised communities are fully included in the benefits and can take part in the new workforce it will take to get there.

America’s 125 million residential units account for approximately 20 per cent of the country’s total carbon emissions, but only roughly 12,500 of these units (0.01 per cent) are operating at net zero energy. 

According to RMI, progress continues to be hindered by the disaggregation of both supply and demand – every retrofit is a custom job, involving significant time, complexity and cost.

With nearly 50 million Americans living at or below the federal poverty line, many struggling to pay for their utilities and other basic needs, change is crucial. 

While low-income families stand to benefit the most from high-performing buildings, they also face the greatest barriers in accessing them, spending up to 20 per cent of their income on energy, compared to just four per cent for the average US household.

In an exciting step forward for sustainable, family-focused housing, RMI has announced a national partnership with the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to drive the development of a speedy and scalable process for zero-carbon retrofits in the multifamily home sector.

Supported by a $500,000 DOE Building America award and a $7.2 million CEC Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) grant, the three-year collaboration spans across California, Minnesota and Massachusetts to develop pilot projects in multifamily buildings to demonstrate an industrialised approach to conducting zero-emissions retrofits.

“We are excited to partner with RMI and CEC to invest in an initiative designed for the multifamily sector,” said Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “This partnership will help American families realize new energy and cost-saving opportunities while improving their quality of life with more comfortable, healthier homes.”

Learn more about REALIZE and RMI’s work in the sustainable building space here.