ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 95 - 02/17/2011

President’s New Better Buildings Initiative Wins Trade Groups’ Praise

Advocates of policies to promote green construction have applauded President Obama (D) for the Better Buildings Initiative that he unveiled earlier this month.

The initiative aims to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency for commercial buildings over the next decade. The plan is expected to spur innovation by reforming tax and other incentives to retrofit buildings, creating a new competitive grant program for states and localities that streamlines their regulations to attract retrofit investment, and challenging the private sector to invest in building upgrades through a new "Better Buildings Challenge," according to the White House.

 

 

The initiative is expected to catalyze private-sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools, and universities, hospitals, and other commercial and municipal buildings. The initiative also calls for training for the next generation of commercial building technology workers and launching a Building Construction Technology Partnership.

Obama asked former President Clinton, who is considered a champion for this kind of energy innovation, to co-lead the private-sector engagement along with the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, headed by Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of General Electric.

 

Among the comments that advocates offered in reaction to the initiative are the following:

 

  • Jason Hartke, vice president of national policy for the U.S. Green Building Council: "The five million-plus commercial buildings and the 120 million existing homes in the United States today are, by and large, squandering away precious energy and resources. With policies like the one introduced by the president, our homes, hospitals, schools, and offices can be turned into structures that will lessen our dependence on fossil fuel, increasing national security. This also frees up those wasted dollars for growth in the private sector and for groceries in America's households. We are laser-focused in doing what we can to move this important initiative forward as fast as possible."
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) President Clark Manus: "We applaud the initiative, which mirrors directly what the AIA has been advocating. As a profession, architects are already helping to make the president's goals a reality. Because of their leadership role in the built environment, architects are in an ideal position to help implement the president's initiative. In order to reach the president's ‘Better Buildings' goals, there is a crucial need for design experts to apply their experience, innovations, and talents to current practices so that one of the major sources of energy use -- the building in which we work -- can be addressed. As the president said, the United States can ‘out-build' the rest of the world, and architects are the catalysts for winning that contest."
  • Alliance Senior Vice President for Policy and Research Floyd DesChamps: "We are pleased to see the Obama administration putting financial muscle behind its energy-efficiency commitment, as recently articulated in the president's State of the Union address. We applaud, as well, the president's continuing commitment to improving residential energy efficiency. The plan to make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020 recognizes, as we do, that energy efficiency saves money and creates jobs with the potential to save companies and business owners some $40 billion annually in energy costs."
  • Building Owners and Managers Association International Chairperson Ray Mackey: "We applaud [Obama's] new energy policy to improve energy efficiency in commercial, multi-family, and institutional buildings. The initiative includes the critical business incentives, such as the commercial building tax credit and loan guarantees, that are key to meeting the energy-efficiency goals of the plan. [We have] been a leader in energy efficiency for years, launching the 7-Point Challenge in 2007, which asked members to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2012."
  • Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America: "The president's new effort to encourage energy-efficiency upgrades for the nation's commercial building inventory will make our economy more efficient, more vibrant, and more competitive. Given the fact that the energy consumed by the nation's building inventory accounts for 40 percent of domestic power consumption, encouraging efficiency upgrades will do much more to safeguard our environment and reduce power consumption than any current ‘cap and trade’ proposal ever would. And unlike restrictive environmental legislation or regulatory actions, the president's new proposal will actually stimulate new economic activity and create needed jobs for a construction sector that has seen unemployment rates above 20 percent for much of the past year. Today's announcement reflects the type of pragmatic and productive energy and efficiency upgrades that we first outlined in our Building a Green Future plan. Hopefully it also reflects a shift for this administration away from pushing regulatory and legislative environmental measures that undermine economic activity toward enacting measures that safeguard our environment while advancing economic growth."

 

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