What The USGBC's Top 10 Green Building Legislation List Tells Us About The State Of Federal Regulation Of Green Buildings
Last week, the USGBC announced its list of the Top 10 Pieces of Green Building Legislation in the 111th Congress. Top of the list were the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the Stimulus Bill, and the American Clean Energy and Security Act, better known as Waxman Markey. I have posted about these pieces of legislation extensively--here for Waxman-Markey posts and here for ARRA posts. So I was interested to see what the rest of the list had to offer in terms of overall perspective on Federal regulation of green buildings:
1. It's all about incentives.
Heaven forbid that Congress should force anyone to do anything. With the exception of Waxman-Markey, the bills selected by the USGBC are all incentive based, providing funds for energy efficiency, water savings, etc.
2. It's not very innovative.
There are only two bills on the list which I consider to be innovative or interesting. The Federal Personnel Training Act of 2010 (yet to be introduced) which focuses on training federal personnel to operate and maintain high performance buildings, and S. 1619, the Livable Communities Act of 2009 which seeks to establish an Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities and provides $4 billion in grants to incentivize integrated community planning and implementation of sustainable projects. I like the first bill because it recognizes the need to raise the skills of implementing federal employees to realize the benefits of high performance buildings, and I like the second because it recognizes the linkage between planning and sustainability.
3. Building Codes are not addressed.
Waxman-Markey, and its Senate counterpart The American Clean Energy And Leadership Act, both have some provision for creating a national energy efficient building code. The other bills, however, do not attempt to address the key policy lever of building codes to enhance sustainable construction and save resources. This is probably because of the enormous political fight involved, both in wresting control of building codes away from states and local governments, and with the private interests involved in the building industry.