ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 2 - 05/17/2012

Could Congressional Spending Bill Impede Development of New Energy-Efficient Materials, Techniques, and Technologies?

By Steve Rizer


Spending legislation currently undergoing congressional consideration threatens to thwart certain key requirements for reducing energy use in federal buildings, but could the proposal additionally impede progress toward developing new materials, techniques, and technologies that make buildings more energy efficient? At least one group is fearful of such a double whammy.


Under attack is Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) (EISA), which directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to issue revised federal building energy-efficiency performance standards. The revised standards must specify that the buildings be designed so that the fossil fuel-generated energy consumption of the buildings is reduced, when compared with such energy consumption by a similar building in fiscal 2003 (as measured by Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey or Residential Energy Consumption Survey data from the Energy Information Agency), by the following percentages: 55 percent in 2010; 65 percent in 2015; 80 percent in 2020; 90 percent in 2025; and 100 percent in 2030. Rep. Rodney Alexander’s (R-La.) amendment to the House fiscal 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations bill would prohibit DOE from spending funds to issue a final rule implementing Sec. 433.


The spending bill (H.R. 5325) will go to the full House for debate later this month, Andrew Goldberg, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) managing director of government relations and outreach, told Green Building Insider. There is no similar provision in the Senate’s companion bill (S. 2465), which has passed the committee level. If the final Senate-passed bill does not include such a provision regarding Section 433, House and Senate conferees would have to negotiate the issue.


In opposing the amendment, AIA recently argued that Section 433 is “helping to spur the development of new materials, construction techniques, and technologies to make buildings more energy efficient. And it is showing that significant energy reductions are both practical and cost-effective.”


The association claimed that architects and their allied professionals already are succeeding in making federal facilities meet Sec. 433, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s new Research Support Facility near Golden, Colo., which opened in 2010 (Construction Advisor Today, March 18, 2010, “NREL Hopes New Facility with Daylighting Features Will Spur More Energy-Efficient Construction”).


“Private-sector owners are increasingly adopting these technologies and strategies for their buildings,” AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy said.


When asked to provide additional evidence that Section 433 is helping to spur the development of new materials, construction techniques, and technologies to make buildings more energy efficient, Goldberg said, “We are collecting examples of buildings that currently are meeting the 2030 targets and will have more info to share with Congress shortly.”


Section 433 also requires that sustainable design principles be applied to the siting, design, and construction of buildings subject to the standards. A certification system and level for green buildings must be identified by DOE, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), based on findings from GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings.


Section 433 additionally directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to consult with the federal (GSA) and commercial (DOE) directors of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings to revise FAR within two years of enactment to require federal officers and employees to comply with EISA’s provisions regarding acquisition, construction, or major renovations.


AIA also is tracking a Senate bill to promote energy efficiency. S.1000, which passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan vote last year, would promote several energy-conservation measures for the public and private sectors.


“We, along with a large coalition of backers, are pushing the Senate to take it [S. 1000] up, though it is of course hard to move anything in the Senate,” Goldberg said. “We also are working with lawmakers from both parties in House and Senate to extend and enlarge the 179D energy-efficient commercial building tax deduction [Construction Advisor Today, Jan. 7, 2010, “Bill to Encourage Energy-Efficient Buildings Stands Good Chance of Passage”].”




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