Senate Seeks Sustainability

National
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
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Barbara Boxer and John Kerry introduced climate legislation in the Senate today that does much to promote green building standards. (SenatorMarkUdall/Flickr)

Barbara Boxer and John Kerry introduced climate legislation in the Senate today that does much to promote green building standards. (SenatorMarkUdall/Flickr)

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released its energy bill today. The main talking point is that the bill sponsored by Barbara Boxer and John Kerry takes a tougher stance on emission reductions than the House bill, shooting for 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, as opposed to 17 percent. But the bills share some comforting similarities, at least for architects. Just like the house bill, which we wrote about in July, the Boxer-Kerry bill includes important measures targeted at buildings, among them stricter building codes and retroactive efficiency standards for retrofitted buildings. Along with the bill passed by the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June, which called for other efficiency standards, Andrew Goldberg, the senior director for federal relations at the AIA, said the Senate stands to create strong, architecturally intensive standards

Goldberg said one piece of the House bill that is missing is the GREEN Act, which encourages banks to offer better loans to sustainable projects. Because of the nature of the Senate, such provisions would actually have to be worked out in a separate committee, though Goldberg said he remains confident in the act’s prospects. Another issue where the AIA is looking for improvement over the House bill is the allocation of funds generated by the sale of cap-and-trade credits. The Senate has yet to divvy up those credits—of which there could be more, in light of higher standards—but Goldberg is hoping for more than the 10 percent given over building related initiatives like training building operators and funding green public housing.

“With the built environment accounting for 40 percent of greenhouse emissions in the country, we want to keep hammering home that buildings are the key to energy efficiency,” Goldberg said. Which is not to say the AIA expects 40 percent of the cap-and-trade funds—improving the energy grid and using more renewable energy will go a long way toward addressing buildings’ energy usage, though the feeling is buildings deserve more than they are getting in the House bill. Plus, building improvements not only mean greenhouse reductions but more of those vaunted green collar jobs.

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