Greener Building > Building Envelope

A building’s envelope is the exterior surface of a building’s construction, including the building’s foundation, walls, roof, windows, and doors. A tighter building envelope lowers energy use, reduces heating and cooling bills, and potentially minimizes capital costs related to HVAC systems.  An energy audit can help assess the thermal performance of your building and opportunities to improve your building’s envelope.

New construction projects provide the opportunity to address the building envelope in the design phase.  Often, high-performance building envelopes can enable downsizing of mechanical equipment. As a result, higher upfront envelope improvement costs can be offset by lower operational costs.

Renovations to existing buildings also provide opportunities for increased efficiency. Upgrading to high-performance windows or adding extra insulation to the roof membrane or building exterior can improve the seal of your building.

For information on improving HVAC systems, see the HVAC page in the Energy section of this guide. For information on water recycling and reuse, see the Water Recycling and Reuse page in the Water section of this guide. For information on installing on-site renewable energy systems, see the On-Site Renewable Energy page in the Energy section of this guide.

For a list of energy efficiency incentives and rebates in your state, visit the State Database of Renewables and Efficiency.


As the interface between building interiors and the outdoors, building envelopes play an important role in the energy efficiency of a building. By incorporating building envelope improvements into the design or redesign process early on your team can reduce heating and cooling requirements, thereby reducing energy bills and potentially reducing the high capital costs associated with larger HVAC systems.


Improving the building envelope in your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Energy” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning 6 points for the credit “OP 8: Building Energy Consumption.”

These improvements can also help your institution earn up to 8 points within the “Buildings” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


According to the Department of Energy, 40% of the energy used to cool and heat typical buildings is lost due to air leaks in the building envelope. Most energy consumed in the United States comes from coal, which contributes to smog, soot, and numerous negative health and ecological impacts, including global warming.

In addition, coal mining – especially surface mining and mountaintop removal – is devastating some of the world’s most biologically important habitats and ecosystems. Improving your facility’s building envelope may reduce energy loss and cut energy consumption and related impacts.


AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)
AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual
Department of Energy Information on Building Envelope Improvement
EPA – Ventilation and Air Quality in Offices
Environmental Benefits and Cost Savings Calculator for Purchasers
Energy Star Savings Calculators
Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency