“Green” facts from the “green” leader

Tweeter Heather West of Heather West Public Relations, Minneapolis, and, quite frankly, one of the better PR people I know, provided a link to remarks made by Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, at the Federal Summit 2009, held May 14 in Washington. You can download a pdf file of all of his remarks here, but I’ll give you what I view to be the highlights:

  • We know the economy has caused a slowdown in new building, but the better news is that it has invigorated the retrofitting of our existing building stock, and that’s a huge boon to our efforts to reduce our energy dependence on fossil fuels and to slow the pace of climate change.
  • There are 5.1 million commercial buildings in America, and almost all could benefit from significant operational upgrades and improvements. McKinsey estimates there’s a $160 billion upside in savings from energy retrofits. And we know that green buildings also mean green jobs, a critically important consideration as we work to get the economy back into gear.
  • Recently GSA ran a detailed evaluation of 12 of its sustainably designed buildings, post-occupancy, and discovered that these 12, when considered jointly, and compared to the national average
    –Produced 33% lower carbon emissions
    –Used 26% less energy
    –Used 3% less domestic water
    –Had occupants that were 27% more satisfied.
  • However, within the group of 12, two of the buildings were LEED Gold, and those buildings:
    –Consumed 34% less energy
    –Used 54% less domestic water than the national average
    –And their occupants reported 34% greater satisfaction.
  • And yet I’m sure you get the same question I do: In this time of profound economic stress, people always ask: Is green so important now when the times are so dire? In effect, they are asking, is the green building movement over?
  • And I respond with a resounding NO. In fact, I think we’ve only just begun to hit our stride on transforming our built environment.
  • In the last 6 months, we saw the passage of $17 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency tax credits in last year’s bank bailout; and it was the only money in the bailout that wasn’t going to the banks.
  • And, as part of the economic stimulus bill, we saw about $30 billion in green building related provisions. And that was just in congressional intent and there is much more in indirect provisions as you follow the money from the Federal Agencies to state houses across the country. Whether it was the:
    –$9 billion that was made available to green school modernization and renovation
    –$3.2 billion to the State Energy Programs
    –$3.1 billion to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program
    –$5 billion to GSA to green federal facilities
    –$5 billion to the weatherization assistance program, which will get us on the way to weatherizing 1 million homes.
  • There is simply no doubt that green building is at the nexus of creating jobs, saving energy, and saving money. And your leadership across the breadth and depth of the federal government is how we will deliver on that equation.

Of course, the head guy at USGBC is going to tell us that the green movement is going strong, even when money is tight. But he speaks the truth. Many discussions I’ve had at trade shows this spring have all carried the common thread of sustainable construction and energy savings. It’s here, it’s real, and will be for a long time.—Gary L. Parr

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