Some of the fastest return on investment you can get is by retrofitting a leaky, energy wasting building with high R-value insulation and efficient appliances. Many estimates show that US buildings use close to 50% of the total annual energy in the country- so this seems like a natural place to start if we want to conserve. But what if you’re building a house from scratch?
Contrary to common belief that nothing is really happening in green building at the Congressional level these days, I provide the following two counterexamples.
An amendment to the Senate Appropriations Bill for Energy and Water introduced by Senators Wicker
A recent article in Newsweek, “Obama’s Big Green Mess,” describes what can happen when contractors are “unfamiliar with the nuances of specialized weatherization work.” The fact is, installing furnaces that exhaust poisonous fumes, putting in water heaters that can explode and blowing toxic asbestos
When Obama unveiled his “Better Building Initiative” last week, it wasn’t just the usual architects, builders, and energy efficiency service companies that perked up with interest. A whole new segment of energy efficiency companies saw opportunity: the innovators.
Emissaries from the high tech world, the
Picture a neighborhood block somewhere in your town. It might have single-story homes for 10 families — complete with front porches, sidewalks and green lawns. Or instead that block might have a single apartment building that houses 50 families over five floors. What we know is that each of the families — whether they’re living in a detached house or a mid-rise apartment — pays away some of their hard-earned dollars to pay for energy. And for many low-income Americans, these energy bills absorb a significant amount of the family income.
Now imagine that teams of trained experts come down that block and install measures to help those families save energy. Insulation, caulking, weatherstripping, windows, better furnaces or water heaters. So families’ energy bills go down and their comfort goes up. We call this ‘weatherization’ — and it’s happening in more than 82,000 homes as part of the Recovery Summer.
These jobs have been created mostly in the fields of energy conservation and the development of renewable energy.
Overall, the French green sectors now employ over 294,000 jobs (up from 204,000 jobs in 2006). The ADEME is optimistic that this trend will continue and believes an additional 200,000 jobs could be created by 2012.
The energy conservation and renewable energy sectors grew by 28 percent and represent a market worth €50 billion ($75 billion). They could grow to up to €90 billion ($135 billion) by 2012.
The Obama Administration in March announced $5 billion in funding to weatherize low income homes, but today little of that money has been spent. The logjam of Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) money that should be going to upgrade windows and insulation has been blamed on the Departments of Energy and Labor because of confusing rules over wage rules.
According to the DOE half of the money has been sent to the states. But many states have not distributed funds to the cities and local community organizations for fear of running afoul of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. The rule was instituted to ensure fair wages on public works projects.
Federal weatherization programs have existed for 30 years, but this is the first time that Davis-Bacon rules were applied. Lacking a precedent of what are fair rates for weatherization laborers, many states have been waiting for the Department of Labor to set guidelines. The DOL is to issue rules for 15 states today, with the remaining state guidelines to be out by the end of August.