Friday, November 28, 2008

Pink Is The New Green

In my summary of my experiences at Greenbuild, I blogged:

The economy tanking may be the push needed to implement basic green changes like energy efficiency and conservation. The next big green thing is likely to be blown insulation, not photovoltaics.

Let's define our terms first. Futurelab has a nice succinct definition of both:

Energy efficiency means that users of powered devices can get the same enjoyment or use out of a more efficient device that uses less energy. Energy conservation is a planful pattern of human action by which energy use is avoided.

In order to effectively reduce our energy consumption, we need to do both.

To date, much of the action in green building legislation has encouraged higher complexity energy efficiency technologies, like tax incentives for photovoltaics. There is nothing wrong with incentivizing solar, but it is not the most efficient use of the first dollar invested in green building.

Instead, green building legislation should include incentives which encourage energy efficiency and conservation measures first, and longer term/higher cost measures later. One regulatory mechanism for acheiving this is to require each project seeking government funding to have an energy audit. The audit would identify a suite of energy efficiency and conservation measures to be implemented, and the cost and savings associated with each. The legislature could then tier its incentives to compensate the highest energy v. cost savings as determined by the audit.

In addition, the federal government could enhance national building standards for energy efficiency. States and local government could incentivize simple energy efficiency and conservation measures--like the afforementioend energy audits, enhanced insulation, cool roofs, efficient HVAC systems, and new windows and doors
[The DOE has a list of short and long term energy efficiency measures]

With fewer dollars, both public and private, available due to the economic crisis, we need to maximize the cost/benefit calculus by identifying the most efficient energy saving techniques. In other words, we need to make pink (insulation) the new green.

UPDATE: Christian Science Monitor had a nice little article on this subject. They did not, however, have many creative ideas about legislating for energy efficiency.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ASHRAE 189 Update

Green Building Insider has an article that USGBC is reconstituting the ASHRAE 189 standard committee, but is committed to going forward with the code version of LEED which local governments can incorporate into their regulations.

Green Building Law--Quoted!

I was quoted in an article at on the AHRI v. Albuquerque suit.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Listening To Greenbuild

Things have been a bit quiet here at GBL because I went to Greenbuild this week. Greenbuild is a conference of 30,000+ green building professionals.

I decided not to blog or tweet the conference, but rather to try to really listen to what my green industry fellow travellers were saying. So here is what I heard, in reverse order of importance:

10. Green is becoming mainstream. There were lots of green products providers, but the exhibit hall was primarily filled with the usual suspects in the building industry--Turner, Kohler, skanska, etc.

9. Data is becoming available. A lot of the exhibitors brought nice compilations of data on green building stock. The General Services Agency was giving away flash drives with new data on its large stock of LEED building, for example. The quntification of performance on green buildings should benefit the business case.

8. Fireman's Fund is leading the pack of insurers with green products for building green or insuring green replacement in the event of loss. They are also considering creating a risk product for designers of green buildings.

7. NAHB is going after LEED-H in a big way. A new, more robust NAHB green standard for residential should be out shortly which will give LEED-H a run for its money.

6. Green building policy was well covered, but carbon policy got short shrift. The one session dealing with carbon policy at the state and federal level was cancelled, with no explanation.

5. Enacting green building policies in major municipalities requires LEED APs in relevant municipal agencies to act as agents of change.

4. There was remarkably little concern over the economy's effect on getting buildings built, which seemed strange at a conference for the building industry.

3. The economy tanking may be the push needed to implement basic green changes like energy efficiency and conservation. The next big green thing is likely to be blown insulation, not photovoltaics. [Green Decoder has a nice article on green winterization for a head start]

2. Legal issues, especially risk and liability associated with building green, were little discussed. Where legal issues were highlighted, like a seminar on green leasing, the practioners did not appear to have deep understanding of the green legal issues [Caveat--there was a paid additional seminar on green leasing today that I could not attend--did anyone go and want to comment?].

1. There are no bars open after 2 am in Boston.

I will post more on each of these issues over the coming weeks, and I would welcome other greenbuild attendees to submit their thoughts on greenbuild.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Green Building Litigation In The Offing--Shade Trees v. Solar Panels

The LA Times had a story about a neighborly spat over shade trees v. solar panels. Apparently, the Shade Control Act in California prevents shade trees from blocking more than 10% of sunlight from a solar array:

It protects homeowners' investments in solar panels, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Property owners whose trees block the sun from more than 10% of their neighbors' panels can be fined as much as $1,000 a day if they refuse to trim them.

Although GBL has not heard of this particular strain of litigation before, NIMBY issues are not new to solar installations. See here for a story on local zonign laws which originally prevented Al Gore from installing solar panels on his Tennessee home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strengthening States' Authority To Enact Tougher Green Building Standards

Treehugger has an article identifying 7 executive orders which Obama should sign to protect the environment.

The one which interested me calls for protecting stronger state laws from weaker federal ones

The next President should [...] should amend the existing Executive Order on Federalism to strengthen provisions setting forth a presumption against preemption; require agencies to provide a written justification for preemption; and require that, when a federal statute allows states to adopt more stringent standards or seek a waiver of statutory preemption (as in EPA's denial of California's Clean Air Act waiver), agencies must provide a written justification to the White House before denying the state's regulatory authority or waiver request. As is the case with the existing Executive Order on Federalism, these recommendations are consistent with the goals of the various statutes under which the environmental, safety, and public health agencies operate, including the National Environmental Policy Act.

The preemption issue has proven to be extremely significant in green building regulatory challenges. In AHRI v. City of Albuquerque, we saw an effective challenge to Albuquerque's green building code based on weaker federal energy standards for HVAC equipment. See my post here for more on the AHRI v. City of Albuquerque case.

However, an executive order will not go very far to prevent federalism challenges to green building regulation. For example, it would not have effected the challenge to Albuquerque's green building code because 1) the City of Albuquerque never applied for a waiver, so the executive order would not have applied in that case, and 2) Congress specifically preempted state regulation of energy efficiency of HVAC equipment.

See related posts on green building law and federalism here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A fun link for you greenlaw buffs!

Vote for the next head of EPA at Grist

China v. US--Top Down v. Bottom Up Green Building Standards

Via @allroads on Twitter, I found an interesting presentation on the difference between green building standards in China and the United States. As I discussed here China takes a top down approach to mandating environmental change. In the United States, it is a more bottom up, market based approach. We will see how/if this changes with a more environmentally interested president in the White House. Do you think top-down or bottom-up is more effective?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Green Laws Make US Competitive In The World Renewables Market had an article here that "BP has dumped its plans to build out wind farms and other renewable projects in Britain for projects in the United States" because of the tax incentives for renewables in the United States and Barack Obama's promise to spend $150 billion over 10 years to kick start a renewable energy revolution.

In other words, because of green laws and incentives, the United States is competitive for renewable energy on the world market. What does that mean? More clean energy here, and more green jobs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Give yourself (and the earth) $4000

Daily Green had a nice post on how to save $4000 annually and go green available here

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After--What Obama Will Mean For Green Building And The Environment

I wrote a column yesterday on about the need for our next leader to take us from a red America and blue America to a green America.

Now we know that Obama will be the leader to take on that challenge. I was pleased that he spoke of our planet in peril in last night's acceptance speech, and of the opportunity for green jobs to help heal our damaged economy.

Environment and Energy Daily is reporting here that Obama will begin almost immediately working on these issues by going on a listening tour to explore "energy and environmental issues before Inauguration Day in an attempt to build momentum for its policies and legislative plans," allowing California to enhance its automobile standards, setting the stage for cap and trade and investing $15 billion per year to promote the deployment of renewable technologies.

My fellow blogger Leanne Tobias details the Obama plan here

The future looks distinctly brighter, and greener, this morning.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Green Building Law Featured on EcoBuild

The nice folks over at Ecobuild featured Green Building Law today.

They are hosting the EcoBuild Fall Convention in Washington, DC, the most comprehensive event and exhibition with a focus on the ecological aspects of cutting edge IT at the Washington, DC Convention Center, December 8-11, 2008.

Moreover, they run a great blog with lots of green products and resources.