In 2010, commercial energy usage accounted for 40% of all energy consumption in the United States. Americans spent over $200 billion on energy used in workplaces, schools, and stores. How much of that energy could be conserved if our buildings were designed better, build better, operated better, and just simply better?
During his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Better Buildings Initiative, a plan designed to boost energy efficiency in commercial and municipal buildings. Expanding on the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which invested $27.2 billion in energy efficiency and research, the Better Building Initiative aims to reduce energy consumption, create jobs, boost tax revenue, and reduce deficit spending. Sounds pretty great, but what does this actually mean for your organization?
Tax Incentives: Currently, tax deductions are available for improving the energy efficiency of a commercial buildings. Calculated per square foot based on the percentage of energy consumption reduced, the tax break can be as much as $1.80 per square foot for a reduction of at least 50%. The Department of Energy is working with Congress to redesign and increase these deductions.
Funding Resources: The Better Buildings Initiative aims to create more financing opportunities for commercial retrofits, allowing businesses and local and state governments to invest in energy efficient renovations. A proposed program through the Department of Energy would secure loans for energy-conscious upgrades at schools, hospitals, and other buildings.
Improved Green Workforce: In early 2012, the Department of Energy, in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), invested $1.3 million in training programs for commercial building professionals, specifically building operators, building managers, and energy service providers. According to a press release from NIST MEP, “The goal of the training programs would be to develop and deploy a workforce capable of ‘re-tuning’ commercial and industrial buildings to save energy for America’s manufacturers.” The Department of Energy is also working with the Appraisal Foundation to ensure that building appraisers have the information, guidelines, and resources necessary to properly evaluate energy performance through energy auditing.
Greener Cities and States: The Better Buildings Initiative places special focus on working with state and local governments to craft environmentally-friendly policies, as outdated codes and regulations can sometimes block energy efficient construction plans. Currently, federal funding is helping over 40 state and local governments develop sustainable building programs, which helps create jobs by investing in building improvements. The Initiative also sponsors the Better Buildings Challenge, a leadership program in which CEOS, university presidents, and government leaders publicly commit to energy efficiency through sustainable building projects. Partners include dozens of companies, schools, cities, and a few states, including our own State of Minnesota and Minnesota-based Best Buy.