In his State of the Union, President Obama laid out his vision for winning the future by investing in innovative clean energy technologies and doubling the share of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. Alongside that effort, the President is proposing new efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings across the country. Last year, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all energy in the U.S. economy. Improving energy efficiency in our buildings can create jobs, save money, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and make our air cleaner. The President’s Better Buildings Initiative will make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade by catalyzing private sector investment through a series of incentives to upgrade offices, stores, schools and other municipal buildings, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings. This initiative builds on our investments through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and our continued commitment to passing the President’s proposed “HOMESTAR” legislation to encourage American families to make energy saving upgrades in their homes.
As the father of an 8-year-old attending Public School 36 on Staten Island, Richard P. Ghiraldi was alarmed to learn that students were being exposed to a known carcinogen.
Last month, Mr. Ghiraldi and hundreds of other parents kept their children home from school for four days after tests showed that lighting ballasts — the devices that regulate electric current for fluorescent lights — were leaking the highly toxic chemical compounds known as PCBs onto the light fixtures and floor tiles. “I was surprised they still had these old ballasts in schools,” said Mr. Ghiraldi, a paralegal. “You’d think the custodians and the teachers would think it’d be a danger.”
Yet as he and other parents in New York City press doctors and government officials on the risks from the aging classroom fixtures, which remain in some 800 of 1,200 city school buildings, the answers have been frustratingly vague. Adding to the parental stress, the Bloomberg administration has disputed the urgency of replacing all of the T-12-style fluorescent lighting, estimating it would cost about $1 billion. Its negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency continue.
New York Times, Mireya Navarro, February 3, 2011
The Heschong Mahone Daylighting Study of more than 21,000 students showed a dramatic correlation between daylit school environments and student performance, including:
- 20% faster progression in math.
- 26% faster progression in reading.
- Views out of windows increased performance by 5-10%.
Revisiting the question of the cost of incorporating sustainable design features into projects, this paper builds on the work undertaken in the earlier paper "Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budget Methodology," released in 2004, and looks at the developments that have occurred over the past three years, as sustainable design has become more widely accepted and used.
In 2004, Davis Langdon examined the cost of green from three perspectives: the cost of incorporating individual sustainable elements, the cost of green buildings compared to their original budget. This paper provides an updated look at the cost of green by examining a larger sampling of buildings and looking at additional building types. In both this and the earlier paper, the USGBC's LEED rating system is used as a parameter for determining level of sustainable design.
The 2006 study shows essentially the same results as 2004: there is no significant difference in average costs for green buildings as compared to non-green buildings. Many project teams are building green buildings with little or no added cost, and with budgets well within the cost range of non-green buildings with similar programs. We have also found that, in many areas of the country, the contracting community has embraced sustainable design, and no longer sees sustainable design requirements as additional burdens to be priced in their bids. Data from this study shows that many projects are achieving certification through pursuit of the same lower cost strategies, and that more advanced, or more expensive strategies are often avoided. Most notably, few projects attempt to reach higher levels of energy reduction beyond what is required by local ordinances, or beyond what can be achieved with a minimum of cost impact.