The building sector is the biggest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. Energy used in U.S. buildings produces about 43 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. However, buildings certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have less impact on the environment, according to theGreen Building Impact Report 2008. The report assessed non-residential construction because it accounts for 40 percent of the environmental burden from the buildings sector.
LEED certified buildings have less impact on the land and water, and use 25 percent less energy. They save the equivalent amount of GHG emissions from entering the environment as 400 million vehicle miles traveled. They also use seven percent less water. The equivalent of 2008 water savings could fill enough 32 ounce bottled to encircle the globe 300 times.
The Architecture 2030 Challenge
The Architecture 2030 Challenge calls for a 50 percent reduction in the energy use and GHG emissions of all new buildings and major renovations by 2010. The Challenge also calls for an increasing reduction of both energy use and GHG emissions in increments every five years so all new buildings will be carbon neutral by 2030.
The Challenge also calls for new buildings to be designed so that they cut fossil fuel energy usage in half, and renovate existing buildings to cut their fossil fuel energy usage in half.
The following organizations have adopted the Challenge: the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, U.S. Green Building Council, National Association of Counties, California Public Utilities and Energy Commissions, and individual cities, counties and states.
Will the recession affect the green building sector?
The green building sector has grown considerably in the 21st century. Despite the current economic recession, the construction and certification of green buildings will continue to increase, according to a recent report, How Green a Recession? – Sustainability Prospects in the US Real Estate Industry.
The report, commissioned by RREEF, a member of the Deutsche Bank Group, stated that the green building market will continue to accelerate, which will increase the “green share” of the building sector, and then will speed markets “to the tipping point where green buildings become the standard for quality real estate product.”
There is a potential for tremendous growth in the green building sector, according to the report, for four reasons:
- The low market penetration rate.
- The number of firms and professionals involved in understanding green building techniques and certification systems.
- The amount of projects completed that are awaiting certification.
- There is a strong demand for green buildings from consumers, government policies, and investors.
The report cited four ways that the Obama administration can influence green building market:
- Through a cap-and-trade or carbon tax program.
- Raising the energy-efficiency standards for federal buildings. The federal government is the largest property owner and tenant in the U.S.
- The “green collar” jobs initiative.
- Instituting national energy efficiency standards for all building.
- Providing subsidies to local governments to encourage energy efficiency.
Act local! If you are a U.S. citizen, send a letter to your state governor by signing the petition in support of sustainable public housing.