Thousands of home-owners and business-owners swarmed the convention center floor at West Coast Green this past weekend, fawning over the energy-efficient windows, lighting, textiles, and home performance specialists that would help them save money through energy efficiency in their homes, offices, and warehouses. The vendors there knew that they were not just delivering a trendy product or service. They were positioning themselves at the forefront of a fundamental market shift that is being created by a wave of green building policies soon to be sweeping the nation.
I sat down with Michelle Moore, Vice President of Policy at the U.S. Green Building Council, to discuss the policies that will create an increasingly large market for green building products and services. In the past few years, substantial legislation has been introduced at the federal, state, and local levels to support green building practices.
The Comprehensive Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (HR 6899) includes the G.R.E.E.N. Act (Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods), which provides incentives to lenders and financial institutions to provide lower interest loans and other benefits to consumers who build, buy, or remodel their homes and businesses to improve their energy efficiency. The New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221, and H.R. 2776) proposes new energy-efficiency standards for consumer appliances, lighting, and commercial and government buildings. It also establishes an Energy and Environment Block Grant to fund cities, counties, and state initiatives, including building and home energy conservation programs, energy audits, fuel conservation programs, building retrofits, “Smart Growth” planning and zoning, and alternative energy programs. The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 3021), provides funding to states and school districts to help ensure that school facilities and learning environments are safe, healthy, energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and technologically up-to-date.
At the state level, California has been the first in the nation to adopt a statewide green building code this September. The California Green Building Standards Code takes effect in six months and sets targets for energy efficiency, water consumption, diversion of construction waste from landfills and use of environmentally sensitive materials in construction and design.
Ms. Moore also praised city governments, who are ahead of state and federal governments in implementing green building legislation. She cited San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Babylon (NY), Grand Rapids (MI), and Washington (DC) as leaders in green building. These cities are taking advantage of low and no cost incentives to encourage green building practices, such as offering fast track permitting or density and height bonuses.
Is your state or local government falling behind in creating legislation to support the green building market? You can get involved in changing that by joining a USGBC Advocacy Committee. The Advocacy Committee organizes around significant public issues facing green building at the state and local levels. Contact your USGBC Chapter and help make this wave of green building policies into a tsunami.