Tuesday, January 02, 2007

GreenCounsel Act Locally: Step 3- Incorporate LEED and Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings

Buildings consume one third of energy and two thirds of electricity used in the United States. They are responsible for 35% of the country's CO2 emissions and 40% of raw materials consumed worldwide. "Green" buildings are blooming, however, because of new environmentally-friendly building materials, economic incentives and the financial savings of energy efficiency.

The U.S. Green Building Council has developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for green buildings, and certifies buildings that integrate sustainability, energy and water efficiency, renewable resources and indoor environmental quality. Many municipalities have incorporated LEED standards into laws governing construction of public buildings. In 2005, New York City mandated LEED standards for nonresidential public buildings costing over $2 million, and for private projects receiving signficant public funding. Many localities offer benefits to builders who incorporate LEED into private projects, including tax credits (Maryland), higher zoning density allowances (Arlington County, VA), and reduced permit fees and fast-track permits (Gainesville, FL).

In 2002, the Town of Greenburgh, NY, passed a ground-breaking law requiring most new dwellings to meet Energy Star Labeled Home guidelines that typically use 30% less energy with improved thermal windows, tightly sealed ducts, and high efficiency heating and cooling equipment (HVAC).

Some Colorado communities have charged extra fees for energy-wasting homes. In Aspen, homeowners are charged special fees if their homes are over 5,000 sq. feet or if they exceed an "energy budget" allocated to their property. These fees funded more than $2 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects during the program's first two years.

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