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Push to Save Green Building Mandates

Friday, May 3, 2013

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The energy efficiency of more than 400,000 U.S. buildings is at stake in a new Senate bill that critics are threatening to derail, hundreds of building industry firms are warning Congress.

More than 350 architectural, engineering, design, consulting and building firms and associations are appealing to Congress to protect energy conservation requirements for government buildings.

A new letter from that group seeks to head off a plan to gut the conservation requirements in a bill now working its way through the Senate.

Wayne S. Aspinall Federal Building
GSA

The retrofit of the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building in Grand Junction, CO, is considered a model project by supporters of the green building mandates.

The letter, addressed to Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski (AK), was released one week ahead of the committee’s May 8 mark-up of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013.

Promoting Energy Efficiency

The legislation, introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), would promote greater use of energy efficiency technology in commercial and residential buildings and by manufacturers.

The new bill incorporates provisions of a similar unsuccessful bill from 2011. It also includes, for the first time, a Private Commercial Building Efficiency Financing Initiative that would provide grants to states “to establish or expand programs to promote the financing of energy efficiency retrofit projects for private sector and commercial buildings.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Sen. Rob Portman

The bill, introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), would promote greater use of energy efficiency technology in commercial and residential buildings and by manufacturers.

The largest group of signatories to the letter represents the architecture industry and includes the American Institute of Architects. Others include the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association Inc.; engineering and building firms; environmental groups; the National Insulation Association; and a variety of industry companies, including Dryvit and Pure Green Coatings LLC.

Focus on Federal Buildings

The group is coming out in full force to keep the measure on track, citing likely “efforts by special interests to weaken energy conservation requirements for federal buildings” as the bill is marked up.

In particular, the proponents are expecting an amendment to weaken or eliminate Section 433(a) of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).

The letter’s authors are concerned that critics will block the Department of Energy from implementing a provision of EISA that requires that federal buildings be designed to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Hipolito Garcia Federal Building
prlog.org

The Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Austin, TX, underwent a $30 million renovation that earned LEED Platinum certification.

“Stakeholders from varying industries have been working with DOE to implement this rule in a way that is smart, efficient, and effective,” the letter says.

EISA also created the General Services Administration’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, which works to promote, coordinate and stimulate green building across the entire federal government. Currently, that includes more than 400,000 owned or leased buildings containing more than 3 billion square feet of space.

Energy Eaters

America’s building sector accounts for 39 percent of total U.S. energy consumption—“more than both the transportation and industry sectors,” the letter says, citing data from DOE’s Energy Information Administration.

Buildings are also responsible for 71 percent of U.S. electricity consumption, and buildings in the United States account for 9.8 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, the group says.

“Weakening or repealing federal building energy policies will dramatically harm the federal government’s ability to design and build facilities that use less energy, save taxpayers money, and protect the environment,” said the letter to Wyden and Murkowski.

“Therefore, we urge you to oppose efforts to weaken the energy consumption and GHG emission requirements of EISA Sec. 433(a) and other important energy-saving policies.”

Sen. Ron Wyden Sen. Lisa Murkowski

The bill is before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Ron Wyden (D-OR). Lisa Murkowski (AK) is ranking Republican.

Separately, the group has released a “Myth vs. Fact” document about Section 433 of EISA.

Attainable and Sustainable

The group disputes critics who argue that the measure’s goals are not achievable, saying, “[T]he facts tell a different story.”

“Building professionals are already succeeding in making federal facilities meet sustainability targets, including the retrofit of the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building in Grand Junction, CO, which will be the GSA’s first site net-zero energy building on the National Register of Historic Places," the letter says.

"The result is better energy performance for federal agencies and lower overall costs for taxpayers.”

And what's good for Uncle Sam is good for all sectors of the economy, the letter adds: “More importantly, private-sector owners are increasingly adopting these technologies and strategies for their buildings.”

   

Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Dryvit Systems; Energy efficiency; Engineering; Government; Government contracts; Green building; Green coatings; Historic Structures; Laws and litigation; LEED; Net Zero Energy ; Renovation

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/3/2013, 9:02 AM)

There seems to be an awful lot of confusion between "energy efficient buildings" and "green buildings" - they are moderately overlapping categories and sometimes work in opposition. For example: Re-using salvaged single-pane windows in new construction may be "green" - but it sabotages energy efficiency. Using zero-VOC paint is "green" but irrelevant to energy efficiency. Using efficient styrofoam insulating panels is energy efficient, but not "green."


Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/3/2013, 11:23 AM)

Hehehe. They could always require the retrofits and new buildings to be LEED certified...then the buildings would have to be both energy efficient and "green". ;)


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/7/2013, 8:54 AM)

Unfortunately, you can get a LEED certification without particularly good energy efficiency by going the material re-use/zero-VOC/bike rack/recycling bins/etc route.


Comment from M. Halliwell, (5/8/2013, 10:33 AM)

I didn't think there were enough points with just the "accessories"....but then again, most of the LEED releated projects I've been involved with are Silver or Gold level where you need more points (which pushes you into more the of the energy efficiency categories to get those points, I guess). Maybe the Bronze level is a little too lax. ;)


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