Past visions, current trends, and future context: A review of building energy, carbon, and sustainability

Na Wang, Patrick Phelan, Chioke Harris, Jared Langevin, Brent Nelson, Karma Sawyer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


People spend most of their time inside buildings, and buildings are responsible for approximately one third of total direct and indirect energy-related worldwide carbon emissions. Likewise, buildings in the U.S. account for about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption. Future building development will be driven not only by emerging challenges such as vulnerability to a changing climate and resource scarcity, but also by disruptive innovations and societal changes. Acknowledging the impossibility of predicting future building evolvement, it is imperative to develop a forward-looking vision considering buildings’ significant effect on global environment, primary or source energy consumption, and occupant health, productivity, and wellbeing. As a necessary step in the development of a comprehensive vision, which will be published in a separate document, this article provides an understanding of the past, present, and future building paradigms. It presents the possible future context regarding demography, environment, and resources. It also discusses how building development in the past century was shaped by technology leapfrogging and social movements. It reviews today's key technological and social trends that are likely to influence the design and function of buildings of the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)976-993
Number of pages18
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
StatePublished - 2018


  • Buildings
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Technologies
  • Trends
  • Visions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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