2014 Green Building Policy Outlook

by | Mar 10, 2014

With strong progress in 2013 and early accomplishments in 2014, the green building community and Congress are jointly positioned to finally make the improvements needed to advance our nation’s energy efficiency goals and set the policy needed for long term sustainability.

When the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC) was first coming together in July of 2012, we organized around our common mission to “support and promote green building codes, standards, rating systems and credits that are developed in conformance with full ANSI or ISO-type consensus processes, are data-driven, supported by science, and performance-based.”

While we still have more work ahead, it is important to recognize some significant steps towards achieving that mission as the legislative year kicks off and state legislatures across the country convene.

In 2013 Congress continued to highlight the importance of good green building policy.  The Senate Armed Services Committee recommended “…equal consideration of other sustainable building certification systems …, incorporate life cycle assessments, and are created through a voluntary consensus process or through international sustainable building codes” demonstrating the Committee’s commitment to energy efficient buildings that are both cost effective and provide the level of support our military needs.  And the House Appropriations Committee included language in its bill that prohibits funding from being obligated or expended to implement or use green building rating standards unless such standards are voluntary consensus standards.

In October of 2013, the U.S. General Services Administration recommended for the first time to the U.S. Department of Energy that the federal government use more than one green building rating system to certify that a building is energy efficient. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system had long been the sole certification program used by the federal government to meet federal green building requirements. The GSA’s recommendation that the Green Building Initiative Green Globes certification program also be used will bring much needed competition to the process. Introducing competition among certification standards will help the U.S. government improve the efficiency of its buildings, reduce the federal government’s overall energy use and save taxpayer funds.

We commended this accomplishment at the time but still cautioned that more must be done to ensure that all green building codes, standards, ratings systems and credits used by the federal government are grounded in sound science and developed through true voluntary consensus processes.

The start of the New Year brought with it passage of the final version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.  Significant to the green building community, this bill included language that encourages the GSA to use green building systems that are voluntary consensus standards. This legislative language is important because it demonstrates that Congress recognizes the importance of consensus standards and the benefits of the government using more than one green building certification system.

The appropriations language is another positive step, but there is much further to go and more we can all do to bring real credibility to the green building movement.  With the millions of dollars being spent annually to certify buildings as green it only makes sense to determine that these certified buildings actually perform.  The end result of all green building rating systems and standards both today and into the future must be measurable reductions of energy, water, and improved environmental performance.  To fall short of this not only wastes taxpayer dollars, it diminishes the entire Green Building discipline.  The Coalition stands ready to work as a member of the green building community to develop performance measuring methods as a way to make certain taxpayers and green building customers get what they pay for.

We look forward to working with Congress in 2014 to further make certain that federal buildings achieve increased energy efficiency, better building performance, and deliver sustainable outcomes with real results. With the right policies in place, we can reduce the federal government’s overall energy use, save taxpayer funds, and ensure our nation’s approach to energy efficiency is effective, credible and sustainable for the long term.

D’Lane Wisner is Executive Director of The American High Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC) which represents and speaks for proponents of performance-based green building systems. AHPBC membership includes more than 40 organizations and sweeps across a broad range of green building materials, products, and technologies. The coalition’s mission is to support and promote green building codes, standards, rating systems and credits that are transparent, data-driven, supported by science, and performance-based.

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