What's Happening in Green Building Policy?
USGBC's CORE ADVOCACY AREAS
Buildings and Climate Change
Part of USGBC’s commitment to the environment and to healthy, sustainable communities is strong support for swift reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – nationally and globally. Inefficient and unsustainable buildings represent over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. USGBC, as a pioneer for sustainable buildings, has emerged as a dedicated advocate for policies and measures to reduce emissions from our built environment.
Early in the fall, USGBC invited volunteer advocates from around the country to Washington, D.C., for the Second Annual Congressional Advocacy Day to educate policymakers and advance comprehensive clean energy legislation, green affordable housing and green schools. In the months that followed, USGBC worked to ensure inclusion of key building-related provisions in the Senate climate bill such as Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP), energy performance labeling for buildings, and WaterSense. Those programs were successfully included in the bill, which passed out of its Senate committee in November.
Discussions on building retrofit policies and incentives with the White House and federal agencies continue. USGBC’s efforts with the Rebuilding America coalition received a major boost from the White House with the release of the Recovery through Retrofit Report in October and the president’s announcement that Congress should use discretionary funds for building efficiency programs in December.
Finally, USGBC’s Roger Platt and Jason Hartke traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, the second week of December to help deliver our message to an international audience. During the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15), USGBC worked toward a common green building vision with dozens of its sister Green Building Councils around the world, international business groups, and other non-governmental stakeholders. During panel discussions and presentations with other green building and climate leaders, the USGBC team worked to elevate the powerful role that green building strategies play in delivering carbon mitigation and adaptation benefits to the world. Read the USGBC COP 15 blog to learn more or peruse the Bright Green Expo where USGBC presented.
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Recognizing the dual challenge of rapid urban growth and climate change, USGBC is partnering with local governments and other organizations across the country to develop innovative means to promote sustainable development as a solution to the energy and environmental challenges facing urban communities.
At Greenbuild, USGBC launched a new advocacy initiative, Green Buildings for Cool Cities: A Guide for Advancing Local Green Building Policies, a joint effort with the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities program. This guide recognizes leading policies from across the country, and organizes them from basic to advanced plans of action for policymakers. This partnership brings together thousands of chapter advocates of both organizations and encourages them to identify and advance green building policies in their own communities.
In early November, a small USGBC team attended the Urban Land Institute’s fall meeting to discuss sustainable development with local government officials and other stakeholders, including a focus on how LEED for Neighborhood Development can be used as a policy tool to reach sustainability goals. As the launch date for LEED for Neighborhood Development grows closer, interest continues to grow among local governments who see the new rating system, and the principles it embodies, as a useful guide when reviewing and revising their own planning regulations to make sure that they facilitate sustainable development to take place in their communities.
As a sign of the impact the USGBC community is having on cities and communities, USGBC advocacy associate Aaron Lande was named The Climate Community’s Citizen of the Week for the last week of December. Aaron leads USGBC’s work in the field of urban sustainability, which includes the Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools, the STAR Community Index, and the Climate Positive Development Program. He also guides the local advocacy efforts of USGBC’s 80 chapters and works with the staff and volunteers to advance policies in support of green buildings and neighborhoods.
Green schools represent a critical opportunity to reduce energy and resource consumption and to provide America’s children with healthier, productive places to learn and thrive. USGBC’s vision is to have green schools for every child within a generation.
USGBC’s Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools continued to grow over the past several months with the additions of Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas, and Mayor Elaine Walker of Bowling Green, Ky. These four municipal leaders join a growing coalition seeking to strategically harness the leadership and innovation of mayors across the country to promote the benefits of green schools in their communities. Through the promotion of resources and best practices, USGBC advocacy staff continues to develop new strategies to assist Alliance members.
In October, USGBC advocacy director Roger Limoges convened the 50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus Legislative Summit here at USGBC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters – attended by 30 leading state lawmakers as well as White House staff and other stakeholders. The 50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus Initiative was created to realize the goal of establishing a green schools caucus in every state legislature in the country.
Throughout the quarter, USGBC advocacy staff convened monthly meetings of the Coalition for Green Schools, an alliance of the nation’s leading educational and environmental associations dedicated to healthy, safe and sustainable K‐12 learning environments. Most recently, USGBC’s Nate Allen and Bryan Howard worked in conjunction with leaders of the Congressional Green Schools Caucus to host a briefing on Capitol Hill on the benefits of green schools and relevant financial mechanisms for green school funding. The panelists of the January briefing were Steve Davis, director of sustainable design at VMDO Architects, and Judy Marks, associate director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Doug Gatlin, USGBC’s vice president for market development, also presented on the paid-from-savings approach to financing green schools, describing how projects can realize comprehensive green measures without restrictive up-front costs.
Green Affordable Housing
All individuals should have access to the benefits of green building, regardless of race, income or other social factors. To broaden the reach of the green building movement, USGBC relies on direct and collaborative advocacy efforts to encourage policy solutions at all levels of government and complements its affordable housing advocacy work with the LEED for Homes rating system.
In November 2009, 120 attendees met in Phoenix, Ariz., for the annual Affordable Housing Summit that is hosted in conjunction with USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo. The event was kicked off by Conrad Eagan, president of the National Housing Conference, and included sessions on combining tax credits for energy and low-income housing, and research on cost savings attributable to green building techniques.
Later that month, USGBC’s manager for affordable housing, Casius Pealer, joined a panel of industry experts to discuss the benefits of green affordable housing with staff from the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs. This educational event highlighted the costs and long-term benefits of green building, the value of verification and testing, and specific issues surrounding data collection once energy and water efficiency improvements are in place.
USGBC advocacy staff continues to promote bills in Congress that would enable increased efficiency, healthy environments and green affordable housing. The advocacy team kicked off this effort in 2010 by coordinating an event with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and USGBC Colorado. Bennet introduced the Energy Efficiency and Modernization Act (S.2897) in January, the companion bill to HR 4099 introduced by Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio, in the House. The bills would utilize existing funds associated with federally assisted housing projects to enable private affordable housing owners to finance efficiency and green building improvements. Deb Kleinman, executive director of USGBC Colorado, joined Sen. Bennet at the Jan. 13 press conference announcing this legislation.
Most recently, USGBC coordinated a meeting of The Home Depot Foundation partners and key federal agency staff at the end of January at the National Building Museum, in order to converge on implementation of the White House Recovery Through Retrofit initiative as well as the HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, including identification of regulatory barriers, private investment and benchmarks of success.
Welcome, Roger Platt
Roger Platt joined the USGBC advocacy team last summer as senior vice president for global policy and law. From his previous post as senior vice president and counsel at the Real Estate Roundtable, Roger brings extensive green building experience, connections and ideas on transforming the built environment to USGBC’s advocacy and policy shop. Additionally, Roger brings valuable institutional knowledge and history from his time serving on the USGBC Board of Directors before transitioning to a full-time employee.
Roger oversees USGBC’s engagement in U.S. policy and the USGBC effort to elevate green building worldwide. In this capacity, he leads USGBC advocacy efforts that take place in the international arena, the federal government, and state and local governments. These efforts are focused on advancing USGBC’s priorities to broad constituencies in four categories: climate change and buildings, sustainable cities and communities, green schools, and green affordable housing.
Roger is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of San Francisco School of Law. He is a member of the California and District of Columbia bar associations and a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). There, he chaired the ULI Sustainable Development Council from 2001-2004 and currently serves as assistant chair of the ULI Responsible Property Investment Council.
Roger is an avid Bob Dylan fan who enjoys cooking and eating large complex southern and northern Indian dishes. A fourth-generation New Yorker, he was born and lived for 18 years in NYC and finds excuses to visit there constantly. Roger has two children who are both in college. He lives in Washington, D.C., with Christie, his wife of 25 years.
Copenhagen Welcomes Green Building Solutions, and the U.S. Green Building Council
Dec. 7-18, 2009
During the first two weeks of December, a team of USGBCers could be found bustling around Copenhagen trying to follow the latest twists and turns of the negotiations. Dubbed “The City of Cyclists” by its residents for the 38 percent of the population that commutes by bike, Copenhagen is a shining example of sustainability, and a fitting host for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The conference, also known as COP 15, took place from Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. There, USGBC joined tens of thousands of activists, scientists and government representatives from over 150 countries to help the world form a new pact to tackle climate change. As they continued their efforts to bring the social, economic and environmental benefits of green building to the COP 15 agenda, the USGBC staff was a sought-after resource for their expertise on energy efficiency in the built environment. During the two-week conference, USGBC representatives participated in government panels and U.N. events and met and mingled with some of the most renowned global leaders on the subject of climate change.
Green Building Activities in America get Attention on the World Stage
On Dec. 10, USGBC’s senior vice president for global policy and law, Roger Platt, participated in a panel discussion on green buildings with Rick Duke, deputy assistant secretary for climate policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, Keith Curtis, senior energy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls, Inc. The discussion focused on green building projects and policies happening in the U.S. as well as the necessity for working across borders develop common metrics, so that sustainable buildings can be part of the global climate solution – and hopefully part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process in the future.
What Does Green Mean?
Synching up How Buildings Perform on Carbon
On Dec. 11, USGBC’s director of research, Chris Pyke, participated in a U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Building and Climate Initiative (SBCI) official side-event. The well-attended panel discussion featured new research on green building from voices around the world, but most significant was the presentation of UNEP-SBCI’s common carbon metric, the result of collaboration among USGBC, the U.K. Green Building Council, the Green Building Council of Australia, and a variety of international institutions. This new metric will allow emissions from buildings everywhere to be consistently assessed and compared, and enable improvements in buildings to play a more active role in emissions reduction policies such as nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) and more. International measurement and verification of emission reductions was a crucial sticking point in the negotiations. Hopefully, the UNEP-endorsed common carbon metric will aid governments in many nations and help ease the process for measurement, reporting and verification of emission reductions from the building sector.
Cities and Local Governments Make their Voices Heard
While national governments were the negotiators of the Copenhagen outcome, local governments didn’t stay home. City officials from around the world convened to pressure their national counterparts for a strong accord and to advocate for key references to local governments in any agreement. As pioneers for innovative climate and energy policies, localities have served as leaders in the fight against global warming in the U.S. Just one example of this action is the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, initiated by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, now with over 1,000 mayors from U.S. cities. Local governments continue to pave the way through adoption of progressive policies to reduce energy consumption and increase sustainability, and LEED buildings have emerged as a critical tool for achieving those goals.
“A successful plan in this country for reducing our energy consumption begins in cities and local communities.” – Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels
Read more about USGBC’s experience in Copenhagen »
50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus Summit Creates Legislative Blueprint for Green Schools
Oct. 23-24, 2009
Hailed by legislators as the first summit of its kind, the 50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus Summit brought together 30 leading state lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to develop a legislative roadmap and communications strategy to green new and existing school facilities nationwide. The lawmakers met at USGBC headquarters and represented over 25 states.
Challenged by USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi to “embrace the possibilities and innovation that green buildings and green schools make possible,” state lawmakers and third-party experts developed a robust legislative menu of options to be introduced during the 2010 state legislative sessions that will significantly advance green schools. The 50 for 50 Summit was attended by senior-level staff from the White House, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and the National Conference of State Legislatures to assist in the development of policy options.
Among the many best practices and ideas discussed at the summit were opportunities for green construction of new schools, green retrofits and renovations of existing buildings, financing options through bonds and public-private partnerships, healthy indoor environmental quality in schools, and opportunities to utilize green schools as a teaching tool.
In addition to crafting policy, legislators also participated in an intensive on-camera media training to improve their skills on communicating the promise and potential of green schools through the media. Legislators learned how to talk about green schools and green buildings both to their constituents and colleagues as solid investments in our environment, our economy and in the health and performance of our kids and teachers.
The 50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus campaign was launched in 2008 in collaboration with lawmakers from six states. In just over a year, the program has launched green schools caucuses in 30 states across the country. States with green schools caucus leadership include: AZ, CA, CO, FL, MA, IA, ID, IN, IL, KS, KY, MD, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, NE, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI.
Learn more about the green school’s caucus program or e-mail Roger Limoges at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Not only is this the first time I’ve had a chance to strategize with other allies on green schools, it is the first conference on green construction and retrofits that has focused on policy and the messaging that supports it. This has been the best organized and most useful summit on the new economy that I’ve yet attended.” Oregon State Rep. Jules Bailey
Beantown Meets Greentown, with the help of USGBC and Adobe Systems
Oct. 16, 2009
On Oct. 16, 2009, USGBC Senior Vice President Roger Platt joined Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to present a $100,000 award to the City of Boston and the Boston Public Schools District for their strong commitment to high-performance green schools. Platt and Menino were joined by city officials, staff and students of the LEED Gold-certified Franklin D. Roosevelt K-8 School in Hyde Park in celebrating the achievement.
“These sustainable schools not only teach our students to be environmentally conscious, but they will also be more cost-efficient and healthy for our community. This is just the next step in our efforts to turn Beantown into Greentown.” – Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston
The award, provided by Adobe Systems, is one of three awards given nationally to municipalities chosen by the Mayors’ Alliance to support and encourage additional green school renovation and repair projects. The cities of Chicago and San Francisco joined Boston as 2009 awardees.
“USGBC is pleased to partner with Adobe Systems to recognize the leadership of innovative mayors and municipalities across the country when it comes to greening their schools,” said Platt. “The City of Boston has much to be proud of, and we look forward to the day when every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school like Roosevelt.”
USGBC Testifies Before Congress on Greener Veterans Affairs Facilities
Sept. 30, 2009
As part of Congress’ continued attention to sustainability in federal facilities, USGBC took to Capitol Hill in September to testify about the opportunities for efficiency in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Gail Vittori, chair of the USGBC Board of Directors and co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (Austin, TX) and Tom Hicks, Director of USGBC’s Building Performance Initiative, joined officials from the VA and other stakeholders before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to discuss the department’s efforts to implement recent economic recovery funding to upgrade building sustainability.
In his testimony, Hick’s applauded VA’s leadership in reducing the environmental impact of federal facilities, noting the tremendous opportunities presented by the agency’s vast building portfolio, which includes more than 1,400 properties.
“Building efficiency offers an enormous pool of untapped resources that is right in front of us. Through ‘tune-ups’ to its building systems and equipment, the federal government can significantly reduce its environmental footprint and generate more than $650 million in energy savings annually,” Hicks said.
Vittori lauded the VA’s vision in achieving the ENERGY STAR designation for 15 of their hospitals but urged them to do more.
“Each dollar invested in energy efficiency in the healthcare sector is equivalent to generating new revenues of $20 for hospitals, and $10 for medical office buildings. Every dollar saved through energy and water efficiency can be redirected to patient care.”
USGBC Brings Green Building Advocates to Capitol Hill
Sept. 23, 2009
As part of USGBC’s efforts to support World Green Building Day on Sept. 23 and to advocate on behalf of comprehensive energy and climate legislation, nearly 80 volunteers from USGBC chapters and affiliates across the country traveled to Washington, D.C., in late September to participate in USGBC’s second annual Congressional Advocacy Day.
USGBC’s chapter advocates, representing over 30 states, participated in advocacy training and were briefed on recent congressional activity related to green building issues before participating in meetings on Capitol Hill. In addition to informing Members and staff about the work of USGBC chapters and green building projects in their districts, chapter advocates highlighted the important role that Congress can play in supporting green building through passage of clean energy and climate legislation and green schools legislation.
The “fly-in” allowed chapter members, many of whom are expert practitioners in green building, design and operations, to apply their experience in a new way. “Meeting with members of Congress and their staffs brought home to me how important it is for all of us to develop ongoing relationships with our elected officials,” said Catherine Horsey of the Texas Advocacy Committee. “They need to be able to draw on our knowledge and expertise in order to make informed decisions. And make no mistake, the decisions they make profoundly affect green building, all the way down to the local level.”
The two-day event concluded with a reception, at which advocates had an opportunity to meet with Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., a founding co-chair of the High Performance Building Caucus, Rep. Peter Welch, D-vt., author of the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program, and Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a leading voice in greening affordable housing.
For additional information or to express interest in participating in future USGBC Congressional Advocacy Day activities, please contact Bryan Howard, manager of congressional affairs, at email@example.com.
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN GREEN BUILDING POLICY
- 2011 Budget Increases Spending for Building Technologies and Energy Efficiency
Feb. 1, 2010
-Obama puts Government on Low-Carbon Diet
Jan. 29, 2010
- U.S. Pledges a 17% Emissions Reduction by 2020
Jan. 29, 2010
-Kentucky House Votes to Create Green Schools Caucus
Jan. 26, 2010
-ASHRAE Lays Green Building Foundation with Release of Standard 189.1
Jan. 22, 2010
-California Adopts Greenest Building Code in U.S.
Jan. 13, 2010
-Jobs Bills Passes House with Funds for Energy Efficiency
Dec. 16, 2009
-“Insulation is Sexy”: Obama advances energy efficiency in speech at Home Depot
Dec. 16, 2009
-The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act Passes Senate Committee
Dec. 3, 2009
-New York State Passes PACE Finance Enabling Legislation
Nov. 16, 2009
-San Mateo, CA Requires LEED Silver for Commercial Buildings and Build it Green Standards for Residential Buildings
Nov. 16, 2009
-Rhode Island Enacts Law Requiring all Public Projects Designed in 2010 are LEED Certified
Nov. 9, 2009
-Evanston, IL Passes Green Ordinance Requiring LEED Silver for New City Buildings and Large Commercial Buildings
Oct. 26, 2009
-Vice President Biden issues Recovery through Retrofit Report
Oct. 19, 2009
-President Obama signs Executive Order to Limit CO2, increase Sustainability in Federal Government
Oct. 5, 2009
-Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency sign Agreement on Energy Star and National Building Rating Program
Sept. 30, 3009
-Congress passes HUD spending bill with $150 million for joint EPA-HUD-DOT Sustainable Communities Initiative
Sept. 17, 2009