CoBE (Cobenefits of the Built Environment) is a tool to determine the health and climate benefits related to reductions in energy use. The methodology is to reduce a building's energy consumption reduces amount of energy produced by power plants, resulting in fewer emissions of pollutants that contribute to climate change and cause premature mortality, hospitalization, and lost school or work days.
In 2006, Harvard University set a short-term goal to reduce GHG emissions by 30% by 2016, from a 2006 baseline. This chart shows the health cobenefits related to the emission reductions from Harvard buildings during this period. In 2006, Harvard University switched from fuel oil to natural gas at their Blackstone Steam plant. Natural gas has lower emissions of toxic pollutants compared to fuel oil, leading to reductions in the health damages from Harvard's energy use. Despite using more energy during some years, Campus Operations has significant health savings due to this switch in fuel type. In total, energy use reductions in Harvard buildings have adverted over $12.3M in health damages since 2006 based on reductions in premature mortality, hospitalizations, symptoms, and lost days of work and school.