Date of Graduation

Fall 12-15-2022

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Amalia Kokkinaki, Ph.D


Buildings are responsible for almost 40% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and the retrofitting of existing buildings is an essential part of solving the problem. About 75% of buildings in Californian were constructed before the first energy-efficiency building code was adopted in 1978. Old buildings are inefficient, responsible for large carbon footprints and must be retrofitted to stay on track with the state's climate targets. However, current policies do not require substantial changes and tend to favor historic preservation over energy efficiency, missing improvement opportunities. Recognizing the significance of carbon intensity, the 2019 California Energy Efficiency Action Plan shifted the attention of policies from energy efficiency to the decarbonization of existing buildings. However, there is still a gap between Californian goals and practices. This study investigated strategies for old buildings' decarbonization, and the literature review focused on climates related to California. Secondly, the Californian building code, Action Plans and other initiatives were examined. It was found that to decarbonize existing buildings, first, the shift of the building system is required to electric heat pumps for air heating and cooling and water heating. Next, increasing the building envelope's airtightness should be considered. In contrast, insulation choices require a careful trade-off between increasing indoor comfort and using less carbon-intensive materials. Also, strategic landscape design should be part of a retrofit program. However, to implement those practices in substantial quantities, policies need to find the opportunities – "trigger events" - to initiate the retrofit works by mandate and support.