Bryan Howard

With the change in leadership in the Senate and growing numbers of conservatives in the House of Representatives, many questions have come up regarding what to expect with green building policies in this new Congress. While there are certainly many unknowns, here are some issues to keep an eye out for that both sides of the aisle have shown interest in considering.

Energy efficiency is still a top of line issue

As the new chair of the Energy Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) has reaffirmed her support of efficiency issues. In one of her first acts, she re-released her Energy 2020 agenda, which contains an important focus on energy conservation and efficiency. Her plan specifically encourages energy efficiency upgrades, via public‐private partnerships or other financing mechanisms for both residential and commercial buildings. Such support can only bode well for legislation like the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act and Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act that was considered by Congress last year.

Tax reform could bring new opportunities… and challenges

In 2014, one of the last acts of Congress was to extend a variety of credits and deductions in the tax code, including the important Energy Efficiency Commercial Building Tax Deduction 179(D) and the New and Efficient Homes Credit 45(L). This extension, unfortunately, is only a short-term fix. Many ideas regarding comprehensive tax reform are beginning to circulate; staying engaged about how proposals address green building incentives will be vital.

New opportunities for crumbling infrastructure

There is a significant funding backlog to update schools, hospitals and other public facilities to make them more efficient and healthy. In fact, according to USGBC’s 2013 State of Our Schools Report, it will take approximately $271 billion to bring school buildings up to working order. Congress has been reviewing new ways to partner with the private sector in updating public facilities with a focus on reduced operations and maintenance and long-term performance. As the extension of existing transportation and infrastructure legislation is considered, stay tuned to learn more about how these proposals will affect green building and schools in particular.