Carbon Neutral Paris? Oui. Carbon Neutral Madison? Non.

What a difference the pond makes. 

The E.U. passed strict energy efficiency regulations Tuesday, requiring all new buildings constructed in Europe after 2020 to be virtually carbon-neutral.  The goal, according to Reuters, is to reduce the 36% of GHG emissions attributable to Europe's building stock:

"With buildings accounting for 36 percent of the EU's greenhouse gases, improving their energy efficiency is also crucial for meeting the EU's climate change goals," said Turmes.

Contrast this approach to yesterday's veto by Wisconsin's governor of a bill aimed at making a percentage of public buildings green. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported:

The measure had directed all state building funds to be used for certifying at least 15% of total gross square footage of working space in state-owned and leased buildings to meet green building requirements.

The reason for the veto? In a letter, Governor Doyle stated that the requirement would:

[R]esult in all current maintenance projects being delayed indefinitely.  In the future, the commitment of all these funds for this single purpose will also sharply curtail the state's ability to build new buildings or maintain its existing facilities. 

I find it difficult to reconcile these two regulatory actions.  On the one hand, Europe has determined that it is not only feasible, but necessary to build its entire building stock to a near carbon neutral level, and Wisconsin has determined that it cannot even make 15% of its public buildings green.  What will the competitiveness of Wisconsin--indeed, the entire United States--be if it is saddled with a portfolio of underperforming building stock contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

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Michael Ivanovich - May 20, 2010 10:16 AM

Nice post, Shari.

I'm curious what David Miller, UW System vice president of capital planning and budget, recommended. It was report at The DAily Reporter ( that Muller said "that the bill still needs review because it passed through the Legislature without a lot of advance notice." The article quoted him saying: “I’ve got architects, engineers and attorneys analyzing the bill.” So - I'm curious what the UW architects, engineers, and attorneys reported and recommended... Any way to find out?

Tom Lenar, AIA, LEED AP - May 20, 2010 7:41 PM

Gov. Doyle's decision seems amazingly short-sighted from what you've described. Sure, there would be additional costs that would be above and beyond what's currently included in the state budget for maintenance and repairs, however, this would do a number of good things for Wisconsin that have nothing to do with the environment.

The obvious first point is that it would create jobs that are badly needed, and would include everyone from engineering and design professionals to laborers for HVAC mechanics, and beyond. Work environments could be improved, and it has been proven that having a well designed workplace corresponds to increases in productivity and decreases in the number of sick days employees take. The savings that would be realized in energy costs would more than make up for the initial costs over time. In some of the projects I've worked on, I've found that just installing LED light fixtures in a 250-car underground parking garage created a savings of approximately $30,000/year. Sure, they cost a lot more when they're purchased, but the pay back is 2 to 3 years. This is just financial common sense, and it doesn't matter what your view of climate change or the environment is.

In my thinking, the state could issue a bond to fund the upgrades which could be paid back from the energy savings that would show up in their budget. Ofcourse, in reality, Gov. Doyle is likely to find something else to fund with those savings...but that's a different issue.

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