Green Building Legislation Could See Amendments Before Reaching Senate

4 min read

By Tonie Auer, Contributing EditorGreen building efforts continue to gain momentum with the House passage of energy and climate legislation that provides incentives while accelerating the benefits of sustainability and environmental performance. But the bill isn’t ready for the Senate yet.“The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), informally known as the Waxman-Markey […]

By Tonie Auer, Contributing EditorGreen building efforts continue to gain momentum with the House passage of energy and climate legislation that provides incentives while accelerating the benefits of sustainability and environmental performance. But the bill isn’t ready for the Senate yet.“The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), informally known as the Waxman-Markey bill, narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives on June 26 and is headed for the Senate at the end of July,” Dan Probst, chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services for Jones Lang LaSalle, tells CPN.But most experts believe there will be several amendments before the bill goes to a Senate vote. “Most public comment on the bill has focused on the ‘cap-and-trade’ provision that would increase the cost of energy,” Probst says. “For most companies outside the manufacturing and transportation sectors, the majority of energy use is tied to their owned and leased facilities; therefore, the passage of the energy bill would greatly accelerate the focus on maximizing energy efficiency in U.S. facilities, included owner-occupied and multi-tenant buildings.”The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 includes several initiatives including:The Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program supports the creation of retrofitting initiatives throughout the country for residential and nonresidential buildings. Among the variety of incentives include credit enhancements, interest rate subsidies and initial capital for public revolving loan funds.The GREEN (Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods) Act (H.R. 2336) provides incentives to lenders and financial institutions to provide lower interest loans and other benefits to consumers who build, buy or remodel their homes in ways that improve energy efficiency. The bill also increases energy efficiency standards for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) owned and assisted housing.The Building Energy Performance Labeling Program directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create model building energy performance labels for new construction while establishing a meaningful and consistent basis for evaluating the energy performance of residential and commercial buildings.EPA’s WaterSense program receives permanent authorization to designate products as water efficient, as well as funding for state incentive programs for use of water-efficient products.Extension of power purchasing authority for federal agencies allows the federal government to enter contracts for the purchase of renewable power for a period of up to 20 years.“This legislation, specifically the Retrofit for Energy & Environmental Performance program, will help accelerate the commercial real estate market’s update of green buildings by offering enticing incentives like credit enhancements, interest rate subsidies and initial capital for public revolving loan funds,” Ashley Katz, communications manager for the U.S. Green Building Council, tells CPN. “The financial benefits that will be offered as part of the REEP program will help make green building even more affordable. This legislation will also help make our nation’s vast existing building stock greener.”Katz said buildings in the United States are responsible for 39 percent of CO2 emissions, 40 percent of energy consumption, 13 percent of water consumption and 15 percent of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. “Greater building efficiency can meet 85 percent of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs,” Katz adds.The more direct impact of the bill in its current form on commercial real estate is the establishment of a national building code mandating energy improvements in existing buildings compared to the baseline 2005 level, Probst says.“At the start of 2018, buildings would need to use 5 percent less energy than the baseline, with additional 5 percent efficiency improvements every three years culminating in a 25 percent improvement by January 2030,” Probst says. “Furthermore, the bill would set up a Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program to mandate certain performance-enhancing elements in building retrofits, and to create mechanisms for public funding, loan guarantees, interest subsidies and other credit support for retrofit projects.”Jones Lang LaSalle supports government measures that encourage companies to maximize the energy efficiency of their facilities, Probst says. “The energy bill’s requirements that existing buildings meet certain energy efficiency benchmarks over time are, in our view, easily achievable, and will save money at buildings rather than costing money,” he adds. “Moreover, the bill as it currently stands offers financial incentives for energy retrofits to help owners achieve sustainable goals.”–Nielsen Business Media

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