Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Green Building Council’

Green Buildings Prove Themselves Again

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the perceived cost benefits of green building include the following: Operating costs decrease of 13.6 percent for new construction and 8.5 percent for existing buildings; Building value increases 10.9 percent for new construction and 6.8 percent for existing buildings; Occupancy increases of 6.4 percent for new construction and 2.5 percent for existing buildings; Rent increases 6.1 percent for new construction and 1 percent for existing buildings.

So, where are the opportunities ahead? As of 2010, the total U.S. building stock is approximately 275 billion square feet, of which 60 billion is commercial space.  At 1.674 billion square feet of currently LEED-certified commercial space, today’s green buildings market is chump change compared to the opportunity coming down the pike over the next 2 decades.

During normal economic times, we tear down approximately 1.75 billion square feet of buildings each year. Every year, we renovate approximately 5 billion square feet, and we build new approximately 5 billion square feet. Unless the past does not presage the future, by the year 2035, approximately three-quarters (75%) of the built environment will be either new or renovated. Talk about a historic opportunity for the architecture and building community to avoid dangerous climate change by embracing the green revolution.

Better Building Initiative Will Green Commercial Buildings

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

President Barack Obama recently visited Penn State University to introduce his Better Buildings Initiative, an incentive program intended to stimulate energy-efficient retrofits to existing commercial buildings.  The initiative is also designed to create jobs in the construction and manufacturing industries.

Despite the long-term economic benefits of energy efficiency, many building owners often run into difficulty raising capital to make improvements.  To resolve this problem – with the aim of increasing commercial building efficiency by 20 percent by 2020 – the Obama initiative proposes loan guarantees and corporate tax credits for commercial building owners who retrofit their portfolios.  Additionally, it will reward local and state governments for taking leadership in requiring enhanced building performance.  Business and political leaders and industry groups agree that the initiative will create green jobs in the design, construction, and manufacturing industries.

Although several items on the president’s ambitious list require legislative action, federal agencies can take preliminary steps using existing authority, said Lane Burt, director of technical policy at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). A pilot program guaranteeing loans for building owners could “run through existing programs at the Department of Energy,” he said.  Although tax credits for green upgrades will need Congressional approval, existing tax incentives like the Commercial Building Tax Deduction (CBTD) could be used almost immediately.  “The deduction was designed for energy-efficient new construction,” said Burt, so it can be difficult to claim the deduction for retrofits.  Burt said the Internal Revenue Service will clarify its guidance on using the CBTD for improvements, potentially helping more building owners deduct as much as $1.80/ft2 from their gross income on tax forms.

The White House highlights five points that comprise the building efficiency plan.  It didn’t say how much the program will cost, but at least four of the programs are likely to require new or expanded outlays, including: turning tax deductions for commercial building retrofits into tax breaks, a move the administration said “could result in a ten-fold increase in commercial retrofit take up”; boosting access to Small Business Administration loans; introducing Race to Green, modeled after the Race to the Top education program that would reward states and municipalities that encourage retrofits; and expanding job-training programs in energy auditing and building operations.

“That’s money that could be spent growing those businesses and hiring new workers,” Obama said.  The president argued that the U.S. needs to “out-educate” and “out-innovate” the rest of the world.  “In America, innovation isn’t just how we change our lives; it’s how we make a living,” he said.

Two groups that applauded news of the initiative are The National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA). The organizations released the following statement about the Better Buildings Initiative. “We commend the Obama Administration for its focus on energy efficiency in commercial properties, including apartments, and for taking an incentive-based approach to achieving meaningful reductions in our building energy usage.  Energy consumption and energy policy are priority issues for the apartment sector.  The plan announced today includes several items long advocated by NMHC/NAA, most notably reforming the existing building efficiency tax incentives.  Many apartment firms have voluntarily established energy efficiency and green building programs throughout their portfolios, but many more have been stymied by the lack of sufficient tax incentives and financing for building retrofits.”

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley To Receive Legacy Award for His Sustainable City

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to be honored with legacy award that bears his name. Who is the recipient of the inaugural Mayor Richard M. Daley Legacy Award for Global Leadership in Creating Sustainable Cities?  It’s none other than retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley himself.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, architecture critic Blair Kamin said “Chicago’s lame-duck mayor, famous for his green thumb and his iron fist, will receive the award at the annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago this November, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced.”

The Greenbuild Conference & Expo will be held in Chicago at McCormick Place West November 17 – 19.  Roger Platt, Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Law for the USGBC, said “USGBC is incredibly honored to be part of Mayor Daley’s legacy as a world leader in demonstrating how a nurturing and sustainable city can be the highest service to a community.  This award is in recognition of the Mayor’s visionary and planet-changing leadership that has created the amazing legacy of a green city.  We are looking forward to bringing our Greenbuild conference back to one of the world’s most sustainable cities.”

Chicago holds the honor of being one of the first cities in the United States to adopt LEED certification for its public buildings.  Additionally, the city boasts the largest number of LEED-certified buildings in the nation.  “During Daley’s 21-year reign as mayor, according to city officials, Chicago has planted more than 600,000 trees, constructed more than 85 miles of landscaped medians and built more than seven million SF of planted roofs – more than any other city in America,” Kamin said.

Chicago Is Greening its Roofs

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The City of Chicago has more than 500 green roofs, totaling seven million SF.  Ten years after Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered a roof garden planted on top of Chicago’s City Hall, the city has 500 green roofs downtown and scattered throughout its neighborhoods.  According to Department of Environment spokesman Larry Merritt, green roofs cover approximately seven million SF, although that represents less than one-tenth of one percent of Chicago’s 500,000 buildings.

City Hall’s roof garden, for example, has more than 100 plant species, including native prairie grasses.  The Willis Tower is now sporting a partial green roof, located on the 90th floor, that is tied down with steel ropes to protect it against the wind.  One of the city’s few green roofs that is open to the public tops the 555 West Monroe Street building that serves as PepsiCo’s headquarters.  Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin describes PepsiCo’s green roof as having “a swath of grass, tables and chairs, and four twirling wind turbines that are handsome enough to be kinetic sculpture.  This green roof isn’t an energy-saving toupee.  It’s integrated into the daily life of the city and the people.”

On the city’s Far North Side, an organic farm tops the Uncommon Ground restaurant at 1401 West Devon.  According to Kamin, the farm is “totally in sync with the restaurant and its embrace of the ‘locavore’ philosophy of locally produced food.”  Another green roof – visible from the CTA’s Red Line – tops an Aldi supermarket at 4450 North Broadway.  Kamin isn’t so impressed by this green roof, noting “It resembles a postage stamp.  Green roofs, it shows, can comply with the law without adding much beauty to the cityscape.”