Building a Sustainable Future

Building a sustainable future

In Columbia, our environment is more than just the air, plants, and nature around us. Our built environment – the houses, buildings, roads, and more in our city – both play a role in our environmental impact and can also be impacted by our activities and the emissions we produce.

Our built environment plays a serious role in our environmental impact: in Columbia, energy use from buildings accounts for more than 70% of our annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Energy used in commercial buildings like businesses and schools make up almost half of energy emissions, and residential buildings make up around 35%.

It is important to note that energy use and energy emissions from our buildings are two different things. When we rely on fossil fuels like gas with inefficient or outdated appliances to produce energy in our buildings, the resulting emissions are higher. However, when we use more energy-efficient appliances or switch to cleaner energy sources, we can lower our emissions while still being able to fully power our homes and businesses.

While our buildings’ energy usage contributes to our emissions, our built environment also faces challenges and vulnerabilities as the climate continues to change. Rising temperatures and heavier rains can affect homeowners and renters by creating higher energy costs and potential property damage.

An image highlighting several categories under "Built Environment."

The actions in Columbia’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) aim to protect our buildings, roads, and infrastructure with resiliency measures to lower flood risks alongside measures for cleaner, more efficient energy sources.

The City of Columbia is already leading the way on efficient and resilient buildings through prioritizing sustainable developments in new buildings. In October of 2023, the Columbia Fire Department finalized the opening of Fire Station #11, which features industry-leading safety and sustainability implements like ground-source heating and cooling and roof-mounted solar panels.

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The Lynn Street Cottages, eight affordable owner-occupied homes, were also developed with near net-zero energy usage design and universal design features by the City of Columbia’s Housing Programs Division alongside community partners. Columbia Water & Light’s residential energy efficiency programs, solar installations, and free home assessments have also reduced energy use in Columbia by over 11,000,000 KWh – that’s enough energy to power an average American home for nearly three full years!

To be a part of Columbia’s movement towards sustainable and resilient buildings, consider individual upgrades and changes to your home energy systems. Taking action will not only reduce our impact on the environment, but will also help you save money on utility bills: