In the relentless arena of striving to improve the sustainability of buildings, there’s a controversial old adage that can help keep focus in an ever-changing landscape of innovation and requirements: You can only manage what you measure.

When it comes to high-efficiency heat pumps and HVAC equipment, those measurements include a host of metrics such as equipment installation costs, carbon emissions, required fuel costs, and annual maintenance.

With their lower overall energy use and higher efficiency, heat pumps are now becoming essential tools for decarbonizing U.S. buildings, which are currently contributing about 30 percent of the country’s total emissions.

Heat pumps are not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Using electricity to heat and cool a building isn’t new, but it’s getting more popular. Only about 25 percent of homes used electric heating in 1990, but now more U.S. households choose electricity for heating rather than gas.

With rising demand for sustainable energy sources from commercial and industrial sectors combined with increasingly innovative smart heat pump technology, hydrogen heat pumps, hybrid heat pumps, and integration with turbines and solar panels, the global heat pump market is projected to reach $34.3 billion in 2023 and $58.7 billion by 2033, according to Future Market Insights Global and Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

Designing commercial and industrial architecture that supports this transition to electric and on-site renewables requires some retooling as local utilities and grids evolve and as the world welcomes a number of new structures comparable to building an entirely new New York City each month.

In the heat pump market, many key players are investing in heat pump research and development, and continuing to achieve product and performance innovations that address requirements by commercial consumers. Navigating these technical updates while delivering exceptional architecture can be a challenge.

However, in local markets, energy providers like National Grid can help assess the specific HVAC requirements of a building’s needs and recommend solutions that fit within the scope of delivering comfortable interiors while using less energy, plus provide local energy experts who are knowledgeable in rebates and incentives that can lower the overall installation costs for new high-efficiency HVAC systems.

Is electrification of heating the future?

Today’s heat pumps are about 2.2 to 4.5 times more efficient than gas furnaces, and choosing heat pumps instead of traditional boilers and furnaces could reduce the total global emissions of CO2 by about 3 gigatons annually. In fact, even with the rise in extreme temperatures during 2022, as more customers adopted high-efficiency HVAC and other energy-efficient measures, direct emissions from buildings decreased by about 1 percent.

Research from Oxford University and the Regulatory Assistance Project think tank found that heat pumps outperform oil and gas heating systems even in extreme temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius. Heat pumps also help achieve ESG and decarbonization goals of commercial property owners, and properties using electric heat pumps have the lowest overall lifecycle costs, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

With the ability to outperform in extreme weather and lower CO2 emissions, heat pumps have made their way to a recent Department of Energy proposed standards for using heat pump technology to reduce 501 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and save Americans $198 billion over 30 years. If implemented, the standard would affect any new installations and would help meet the country’s net-zero goals by 2050. In order to meet that goal, Princeton University researchers say that most of the non-electricity-based HVAC systems need to be replaced with electric.

While considering the implications of which high-efficiency HVAC is right for a client’s needs, these numbers can’t alone deliver excellence in architecture. However, keeping an eye on key performance indicators of carbon emissions and energy use while partnering with local energy experts like those at National Grid can be an essential method to stay on track and reach the destination of sustainable architecture.

Find out more about how high-efficiency heat pumps and HVAC equipment can help meet your clients’ sustainability goals from a National Grid energy expert at NationalUS.com (Upstate New York) and ngrid.com/heatpumps (Massachusetts).