ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 37 - 01/07/2010

Bill to Encourage Energy-Efficient Buildings Stands Good Chance of Passage

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 8 -- New congressional legislation designed to encourage energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings stands a good chance of passage, James Hoff, the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing's research director, told attendees of the Ecobuild America annual conference.


"I think this one [H.R. 4226, the Expanding Building Efficiencies bill,] has the look of something that's going to go through and move through pretty quickly," Hoff said. "The [bill] was introduced [Dec. 8] with bipartisan support. Every Republican and Democrat that has high unemployment in their district has just raced to join in on this one."


Despite Hoff's optimism, multiple industry professionals commenting in GBI's readership forums predicted that the measure will not gain congressional approval anytime soon, if at all.  


Supported by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and American Institute of Architects (AIA), the bill would increase the Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction from $1.80 per square foot to $3 per square foot with the goal of stimulating immediate job creation. A letter to congressional members was co-signed by more than 50 organizations in the construction and environmental arenas.


In 2005, NEMA and AIA advocated a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot for the design and installation of qualified energy-efficient building systems in new building construction or in the renovation of existing buildings. Although the deduction, which was enacted that year, has been successfully used to build and retrofit energy-efficient buildings, the current economic crisis has reduced the amount of building design, construction, and renovations nationwide. In addition, because some energy-efficient systems are more expensive to design, build, and install than their less efficient counterparts, the initial increased capital costs often dissuade owners from installing these systems.


"The great thing is [implementation of the measure could happen quickly]," Hoff said. "The [U.S. Internal Revenue Service] has all of the rules in place. There are some tricks to it. You have to meet a 20 percent reduction over ASHRAE [American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers' standard for] 2001, not ASHRAE 2007, and you do have to have calculations performed and certified by a design professional using approved energy software. That is not difficult if you are a design professional or are associated with a design firm.... The deduction has to be taken in the year that the building or energy improvement is placed in service, and roof insulation and reflective roof surfaces may be used in part to achieve that 20 percent reduction."




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