In the last 15 months, President Obama and his Administration have made significant progress in changing the way America thinks about energy and the environment, making the vision of a 21st century clean energy economy a reality. From historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and technology; improved efficiency for buildings, appliances and automobiles; more diverse energy production from domestic and renewable sources; and reduced emissions that contribute to climate change – the President’s comprehensive strategy has put Americans back in control of their energy future, created new jobs and laid the foundation for long-term economic security, and led by example in exercising good stewardship of our environment.
Without question, energy-efficient and sustainable homes are legitimately gaining popularity. A very high percentage of new homes built this year – I have seen estimates as high as 40 to 50 percent – will be “green.” According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost 17 percent of all single family homes built in the United States in 2008 qualified for the Energy Star label.
Unfortunately, green home demand still does not approach the demand for conventionally-built homes; and without proper education and marketing, sustainable design and building may not emerge from the housing recession as solidly as some would hope. There are many obstacles that stand in the way of total acceptance and an increased market share.
How “green” is “green?”
There are many local, regional, and national green-building certification programs – private sector and government initiated – that provide systematic approaches for mandating, quantifying and verifying sustainable building practices, but all of the programs are not created equally.
Installing wind turbines or solar panels on homes that are not well-insulated or energy-efficient amounts to little more than “eco-bling” that makes owners feel good but does little to reduce carbon emissions, according to a study by the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering.
To meet the U.K.’s goal of making all new homes and buildings carbon neutral by 2020 and slashing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, the report said, the government should focus on making new buildings highly energy-efficient, retrofitting older buildings to improve their energy efficiency, and investing in large-scale wind and solar projects.