Buildings are some of the biggest consumers of energy in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), commercial and residential buildings account for 74% of all electricity generated and 40% of all energy used in the United States, approximately 40 quadrillion BTUs of energy each year. Optimizing the use of energy within the built environment through energy efficiency measures not only improves the performance of our homes and workplaces, it also reduces energy bills and provides comfortable, healthy indoor environments where we can work, live, and play.

To this end, SEEA provides technical assistance, education, and resources that help business leaders, policymakers, and building occupants make informed decisions about their use of energy. Working with a range of stakeholders across the Southeast, SEEA has conducted evidence-based research and developed programs to assist those making decisions about the built environment on issues that include:

  • Residential and commercial building energy code adoption and compliance
  • Residential and commercial building energy code education
  • Public policies and building component-level strategies for improving energy performance
  • Regional trends in the built environment sector
  • How to make buildings healthier and safer for occupants
  • Improving energy affordability and access

If you have questions about SEEA’s built environment work or would like to discuss how our team can assist you or your organization, please contact Will Bryan or Maggie Kelley.

Built Environment

Built Environment Research and Reports

Energy Insecurity Fundamentals for the Southeast
February 2021

The Southeast has the lowest electric rates in the contiguous United States, yet millions of Southerners struggle to make their monthly electric and gas payments. These households live in a state of energy insecurity. Rooted in historical racial and economic inequities, addressing the region’s energy insecurity crisis requires accurately identifying those most vulnerable to utility cost burdens and applying common metrics to support effective policies and programs.

View the report.


State of the Panhandle
A Snapshot of Energy Codes in the Florida Panhandle
January 2020

This report provides an assessment of building code compliance in the Florida Panhandle and the continued work of the Florida Circuit Rider program, which began in 2014. It further examines the future of energy codes in the panhandle region of the state, particularly in the wake of rebuilding after Hurricane Michael.


View the report.

Adapting to the 2018 North Carolina Energy Conservation Code
Lessons from the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index
January 2020

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS), administered by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), is one of the most popular methods for measuring the energy performance of new and existing homes. This report analyzes data shared by RESNET on the energy performance of HERS-rated homes in North Carolina to gauge how prepared the state’s construction industry is to comply with the updated standards in the 2018 North Carolina Energy Conservation Code (NCECC). This data also shows which key energy efficiency features builders will likely use to meet the new performance pathway in the state’s code.


View the report.

Construction, Codes and Commerce: Commercial Construction Data Review
July 2019

This report examines ten years of commercial building permit data (2007-2017) to shed light on the relationship between the adoption of updated commercial building energy codes and construction activity in the Southeast. There are persistent misconceptions that updating building energy codes depresses construction activity, but our analysis shows that a majority of states throughout the region that have adopted new commercial energy codes have seen an increase in commercial construction activity.

View the report.

Florida Energy Codes Circuit Rider
April 2019

SEEA’s Florida Energy Code Circuit Rider program began in 2014 and continues to pursue meaningful work in the energy code space in Florida. This is the second report in this Circuit Rider series and details the learnings, challenges, and successes had in the last five years for the Circuit Rider Program and what the next steps are for growth in Florida’s energy code compliance landscape. 

View the report.

Home Energy Rating Variability Study: A Comparison in New Single-Family Homes
March 2019

The addition of the Energy Rating Index (ERI) in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) marked the first time that an energy rating had been incorporated directly into a national model code. This study, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, examines how home energy ratings can function as an energy code compliance mechanism by considering the range in variability that might be expected under the new ERI compliance pathway.

View the report.

Construction, Codes and Commerce: Residential Construction Data Review
January 2019

This report examines more than a decade of single-family building permit data (2005-2017) to shed light on the relationship between the adoption of updated residential building energy codes and construction activity in the Southeast. There are persistent misconceptions that updating building energy codes depresses construction activity, but our analysis shows that states throughout the region that have adopted new residential energy codes have not had any reduction in single-family building activity.

View the report.

Integrating Efficiency into Disaster Recovery
August 2018

Following any disaster event that impacts the built environment, such as the 2017 hurricanes that damaged or destroyed many buildings in the Southeast, there is an opportunity to integrate energy efficiency into rebuilt structures. Currently, a variety of barriers exist to better integrating energy efficiency in disaster recovery, including informational, regulatory/legal, timing/logistical and others. This paper will report on the findings of efforts to determine how we can increase the realization of energy efficiency improvements to both residential and commercial buildings by intervening at key points in the process. 

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Multifamily Energy Efficiency Retrofits: Barriers and Opportunities for Deep Energy Savings
December 2016

There are often major barriers to implementing energy efficiency in the multifamily sector, and this report outlines strategies that can be used to achieve deep energy savings in the multifamily housing sector through energy efficiency upgrades. The case studies and strategies highlighted here can serve as a model in areas across the country where utility program administrators and policymakers seek to reduce energy costs, create comfortable and healthy homes, meet regulatory requirements, or reduce the environmental impacts of energy consumption.

View the report.

Southeast Multifamily Market Assessment
June 2016

This report surveys the current state of the multifamily housing market in the Southeast as well as the programs and resources available for addressing building efficiency in order to effectively leverage energy efficiency opportunities in the multifamily sector. This survey of the region’s multifamily sector highlights the current stock of multifamily units, regional and state multifamily construction trends, utility multifamily energy efficiency programs, and state and local policies and programs focused on the multifamily sector.

View the report.