Green Building in a Changing Economic Environment

3 min read

By Brooks Rainwater, American Institute of ArchitectsCurrently, buildings are the largest single source of emissions to our environment. Approximately 40 percent of all carbon emissions come from buildings, and these are the places where you live, work and play. At the American Institute of Architects, we are approaching sustainability and green buildings with a solutions-based […]

By Brooks Rainwater, American Institute of ArchitectsCurrently, buildings are the largest single source of emissions to our environment. Approximately 40 percent of all carbon emissions come from buildings, and these are the places where you live, work and play. At the American Institute of Architects, we are approaching sustainability and green buildings with a solutions-based approach that embraces technological change and incorporates the business case for green buildings. The green trend has become immeasurably stronger during the past decade, as prices for green materials have decreased and knowledge of green design has increased. As green building technology has improved over the years, numerous studies are now showing that a green building can be built for little or no additional cost, with general premiums on buildings ranging from zero to 2 percent. And the payback period in savings more than offsets the additional cost, with energy and water savings accruing for years after the building is completed. Innovative tools such as smart metering, advanced automation, green roofs and improved alternative energy generation systems are creating a more dynamic, technologically responsive building environment. For example, smart metering creates a new relationship between energy producer and consumer by allowing building owners and households to measure electricity consumption in real time and rewarding customers that change their habits. These types of technological answers to longstanding problems will forever change the way people relate to the built environment. Local governments also have a large part to play in changing the green building conversation. They can make a difference just by embracing technological change and encouraging green building through policy efforts and incentive programs. In an effort to understand the state of green building throughout the country and provide best practice resources, the American Institute of Architects conducted a study, Local Leaders in Sustainability, that examined local green building policy in cities across the country. The first report, released in 2007, found that 92 cities had developed green building programs and a further 36 were near completion of policies. Cities across the country have developed pioneering green-building policy, utilizing up-to-date technological green features focusing on both public and private buildings, commercial and residential. Now, in 2009, we are updating this study, following up with these communities to see if they have:•    altered or strengthened policies in light of the economic downturn,•    changed incentive packages offered, and •    are planning on using economic stimulus money for green building programs. These questions, along with many more, will be answered in the forthcoming report, Local Leaders in Sustainability: Green Building Policy in a Changing Economic Environment, to be released at the end of summer. For more information, please visit www.aia.org/advocacy/local.The AIA believes that buildings need to be carbon neutral by 2030, meaning that all newly constructed buildings in the next 21 years will gradually use less and less electricity and that the electricity that they will still need to use will be produced through solar, wind and geothermal sources. These goals will be met through the combination of innovative design and technological advances, and we look forward to designing this greener future. (Brooks Rainwater is the director of Local Relations at the American Institute of Architects.)–Nielsen Business Media

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