State, Federal Leaders Urged to Help Promote Building Green
PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center
Pennsylvania families could save $1,668 every year on their energy bills by 2030 if the government invests in the energy efficiency of our buildings today, according to a new report by PennEnvironment. Saving energy in our buildings would also help Pennsylvania’s fight against global warming by reducing projected greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 21 percent.
“Let’s not waste any more time, any more energy, or any more money on outdated buildings,” said PennEnvironment Field Director Adam Garber. “We need to invest in efficiency today so we can start building a better tomorrow.”
America’s buildings consume more than 40 percent of our total energy, which amounts to almost 10 percent of all the energy used in the world. Much of this energy is wasted due to inadequate insulation, inefficient heating and cooling systems, and poor construction techniques.
The National Academy of Sciences estimates that widespread use of today’s green building technologies would increase energy efficiency by up to 30 percent in existing buildings by 2030. And with the rapid march of technological innovation and increased investment in efficiency from governments and consumers, much bigger gains are possible.
PennEnvironment’s report, Building Better: How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming, analyzes the benefits Pennsylvania would see if we committed to dramatically improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. The report uses government data to estimate reduced energy consumption, decreased fossil fuel use, money saved on energy bills, and global warming pollution prevented in 2030 and 2050.
PennEnvironment was joined by State Representative Matt Smith (Allegheny County) and Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto in releasing the report.
“Energy efficient and green buildings make sense, especially when you are dealing with state resources,” said State Representative Matt Smith, D-Allegheny. “I’ve sponsored legislation that would mandate state buildings and buildings using significant state dollars to meet green specifications. This will create jobs in Pennsylvania, reduce our dependency on foreign energy, reduce energy costs and is the best use of taxpayer funds.”
“Sustainable development begins with green buildings. It has been proven in my council district that green buildings help to promote continued growth. Just like quality design, green buildings help to create a place where people want to live, work and shop,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman William Peduto
Making our buildings more efficient would reduce the projected energy use of Pennsylvania buildings 35 percent by 2030. That would conserve enough energy every year to power nearly 11 million homes.
These enormous energy savings translate directly into financial savings in the form of reduced energy bills. The average Pennsylvanian family of four can expect to save $1,668 a year by 2030, which is 35 percent lower than what they would be paying without the improvements in building efficiency.
“That’s the best part about making energy efficiency improvements,” said Garber. “They pay for themselves as consumers enjoy lower energy bills and a cleaner environment year after year.”
Reduced energy consumption in Pennsylvania would also prevent the emission of 30 million tons of global warming pollution every year by 2030, which is equivalent to taking 5.5 million cars off the road for a year.
Programs to promote more efficient buildings are popping up all over the country. More than a dozen states have updated their building codes since the start of 2009, and more than 20 others are currently in the process of doing so, including Pennsylvania. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $16 billion for efficiency-boosting retrofit and weatherization programs, and Congress is now considering major initiatives like HOME STAR and Building STAR that would provide financial incentives for efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings.
PennEnvironment is calling for policies that will help us reach our efficiency goals, including:
- Steady improvements to building codes over time so that all new buildings are increasingly efficient, culminating in a zero net energy standard by 2030. This means that in 20 years, every new building that is constructed will be so efficient that it can produce all the power it needs right onsite from renewable sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
- Investing in energy retrofits and weatherization to improve the efficiency of existing buildings 30 percent by 2030.
- Supporting innovative financing mechanisms that will unleash public and private investment in building efficiency.
In the near-term, PennEnvironment called on state legislators to pass HB 444 (sponsored by Rep. Matt Smith), which would require state-owned and state-funded buildings to meet green building standards. The legislation was approved by the House last summer, but it still awaiting a vote in the Senate. PennEnvironment also called for legislators to reject any attempts to weaken Pennsylvania’s existing building code, and instead answer Gov. Rendell’s call from last year to implement a statewide green building code.
“There are already thousands of super-efficient buildings all around the country,” concluded Garber. “Most buildings last for decades, so investing in energy efficiency locks in savings for years to come and builds a strong foundation for the future of our environment and our economy.”