While Congress continues to debate remedies to fix the nation's energy crisis, state and local policymakers are taking action to lessen the impact of rising fuel costs and climate change. These issues were at the top of legislative agendas this year, and much of the focus was placed on the building and development industries.
States are moving swiftly to shape energy policy to cut consumption and reduce their carbon footprints. Officials were also mindful of the impact of energy costs on state and local government budgets. Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (R) issued an executive order that creates a 4-day workweek. State workers will now work four 10-hour days, and the initiative will be re-evaluated in 1 year. Other states are watching this experiment, and it's expected that some will give it a try as well.
Florida enacted sweeping climate-change legislation this year that greatly impacts the state's building and development industries. It requires all new, retrofitted, or leased state buildings to be constructed using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED rating system, the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes™ assessment program, the Florida Green Building Coalition's green-building standards, or another nationally recognized standard.
Florida's energy package also includes a provision that requires the Florida Building Commission to revise the state's Energy Efficiency Code for Building Construction to increase energy performance (compared to Florida's 2007 Energy Code) in new construction by the following schedule: at least 20 percent by 2010, at least 30 percent by 2013, at least 40 percent by 2016, and at least 50 percent by 2019. Prior to implementing these benchmarks, the Florida Building Commission must perform a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that energy-efficiency increases result in a positive net financial impact. It will then develop specific building options, including installation of low-solar-absorption roofs and energy-efficient lighting, to achieve these increased performance goals.
Businesses that expand and create renewable energy facilities are also eligible for new tax credits. Through a successful lobbying effort led by BOMA Florida, the state's commercial real estate industry also received a seat on the Florida Building Commission (the body responsible for the development of the state's building code).
California adopted the nation's first statewide green building code in 2008. The new code sets targets for energy efficiency, water consumption, and the use of environmentally sensitive materials in construction, including carpet, paint, and thermal insulation. The California Building Standards Commission predicts that these new standards will result in increased water and energy savings through a combination of more efficient appliances, the use of water conservation in landscaping, and more efficient building design and operation. The standards impact both residential and commercial buildings, and become mandatory in 2010, allowing the industry to prepare for the new code changes.
States are now moving beyond prescribing a specific green-rating standard over another in the construction of government buildings; instead, they're providing two or more options, which is a position that BOMA supports.
Many states have instituted energy-incentive programs that specifically target the commercial real estate industry. North Carolina passed legislation that exempts 80 percent of the appraised value of a photovoltaic system from the state's property tax. Illinois' Large-Customer Energy Analysis Program targets energy users whose costs are greater than $500,000 per year, and provides an incentive of up to $10,000 toward the cost of developing an energy-efficiency action plan.
States aren't the only ones jumping on the sustainability bandwagon: Cities and counties are at the forefront of promoting energy efficiency in their communities. More than 850 mayors have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, an agreement in which supporting mayors pledge to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 7-percent below 1990 levels by 2012. To assist counties in their efforts, the National Association of Counties launched the Green Government Initiative to provide a comprehensive resource for local governments on all things green.
In Kansas City, MO, the city's Climate Protection Plan Steering Committee approved a final draft of its climate-protection plan this year and submitted it to the mayor and city council for consideration. Its long-term goal is to reduce the city's emissions by 80-percent below 2000 levels by 2050. The year also saw the release of Honolulu's Energy and Sustainability Task Force's green plan, which calls for expedited building permits for sustainable buildings and LEED-rated construction projects. The city plans to retrofit its buildings with energy-efficient systems.
The Maricopa County, AZ, Board of Supervisors approved a green initiative to promote green measures in its departments. Multnomah County, OR, also plans to begin construction on the largest solar energy installation in the Northwest region on roofs of county buildings.
For more information on this and other issues, call BOMA Intl. at (202) 408-2662 or visit www.boma.org.