Arup, in collaboration with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the leading authority on green building and the global developer of the LEED green building program, released a first-of-its-kind report on the United States’ commercial real estate sector today at COP28. 

Surveying three decades of data, the State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023 found the U.S. has made vital, yet unequal, progress in decarbonizing commercial real estate.

This inaugural State of Decarbonization report is the first of its kind to deliver both key historical data and targeted opportunities for future improvement. Importantly, the report identified high-opportunity areas that can be decarbonized faster, such as deep retrofits in refrigerated warehouses, where emissions grew in recent years, and older commercial buildings, where pre–1980 buildings account for nearly 40% of gross commercial floor area in the U.S. and could utilize nearly half of the expanded commercial energy efficiency tax deduction in 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act, a key lever for decarbonization per the report.  
The report underscores that the U.S. has the tools it needs to reduce building-related emissions, and new federal funds provide the real estate sector with a unique, immediate opportunity to deploy critical improvements swiftly and widely across the nation. For example, the investments from the Inflation Reduction Act’s clean energy and climate action provisions could enable the building sector to meet its proportional share of the Paris target early, in 2029. 
With proven decarbonization strategies becoming available and cost-competitive, commercial buildings have become 37% less carbon intensive and 26% more energy efficient on average. However, despite these significant reductions, the report found overall sector emissions of commercial buildings have remained flat since 1990, a result of significant increases in total building floor area. 
“This report confirms our progress to date on U.S. commercial building decarbonization and serves as a powerful call to deploy proven solutions at greater speed and scale across all sectors and communities,” said Peter Templeton, president and CEO, U.S. Green Building Council. “We can and must work together—with partners across and beyond the building industry—to seize immediate opportunities for achieving our urgent goals.”  
“This report is a crucial resource in understanding where we are presently, where we need to be in the very near future, and the strategies we can leverage to help us meet our critical climate goals,” said Robert Kay, Arup’s Americas Climate and Sustainability Services Leader. “We must accelerate decarbonization progress from where each city and state are at right now in order to reach our objectives.”

The State of Decarbonization 2023 report is released as Arup and other global collaborators are convening at COP28. Arup first participated in the annual COP meeting at COP26, demonstrating our dedication to addressing climate change in the built environment.

Download the State of Decarbonization: Progress in U.S. Commercial Buildings 2023 report