Green Is Good--Stimulus Shows More Green Funding Means More Jobs Per Public Dollar

I have been tracking the green stimulus spending since June 2009. In November 2009, actual dollars spent on green projects was $1.5 billion.  Now, in November 2010, dollars actually paid to date on green projects is approximately $11 billion.  It amounts to approximately 7% of contract spending from the Stimulus bill (which does not include tax benefits), and 2.6% of the total stimulus money paid to date. 

By agency, the spending on green breaks out as follows:

  Allocated Paid Out Unit % Paid
DOE 33.29 9.4 Billion 28.24%
Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy 16.50 4 Billion 26.06%
EPA (9/30) 7.20 4 Billion 62.22%
GSA 6.10 1.42 Billion 23.28%
Green Buildings 5.50 1 Billion 18.18%
DOT 40.40 22.3 Billion 55.20%
High Speed Rail 3.00 1 Billion 33.33%
Total Agency 86.99 38 Billion 43.22%
Total Green 32.20 11 Billion 33.48%
Total Contract Spending 275.00 156.7 Billion 56.98%
Total Stimulus 787.00 403.4 Billion 51.26%
% Green of Contract Spending 11.71% 6.88%    
% Green of Total Stimulus 4.09% 2.67%    

[I used the same methodology as described in detail here. If you are a data geek like me, you can do your own number crunching at and the agency recovery sites who do weekly reporting in Excel on the allocation and spending of the Stimulus money.  There is a wealth of information available, and I welcome any input or different statistical or mathematical analyses from the Green Building Law Community.] 

At the initiation of the Stimulus, Obama touted the green components of the stimulus bill.  He has also been very positive on the prospect of green jobs. Opponents of the stimulus bill, and waning support of green initiatives and green jobs in general, has been on the rise.

So the question becomes: what is the value of the 3% of the Stimulus that went to green iniatives, and was the return on investment higher or lower than the other initiatives that were funded by the stimulus? The answer to the ROI question is "yes"-- Agencies tasked with green funding (DOE, EPA, GSA) hold 3 of the top 10 most efficient job creating agencies that were allocated stimulus funding:


  Stimulus Funds Paid Jobs Created Dollars Per Job
Department of Justice $2,013,343,173 16330.59 $123,286.62
National Science Foundation $817,277,981 5503.36 $148,505.27
Department of the Interior $1,545,986,174 10047.13 $153,873.41
Department of Education $66,652,472,918 341668.74 $195,079.22
Department of Energy $9,691,290,357 42262.17 $229,313.60
General Services Administration $1,493,185,840 5773.82 $258,613.16
Department of Housing and Urban Development $7,270,460,291 27640.01 $263,041.16
Department of Homeland Security $598,741,846 2137.91 $280,059.43
Environmental Protection Agency $4,608,982,170 16233.68 $283,914.81

  By contrast, the two departments which spent the most money, the Department of the Treasury (tax cuts) and the Social Security Administration only created 188 direct jobs.

Department of the Treasury $8,575,280,379 144.27 $59,439,109.86
Social Security Administration $13,727,406,290

It will be argued that the tax cuts, etc. indirectly created jobs by pumping more money into the economy.  But there is a direct way to measure the impact of a single green dollar.  To address this, I looked at the statistics for the GSA.  Unlike other agencies which allocate money through states to programs or disperse it to individual taxpayers, the GSA contracts directly with builders and other direct contract fund recipients to build or renovate federal buildings.

As of September 30, 2010, the GSA had saved or created 5773.82 jobs (how you have .82 of a job I can't say). The stat is here. The GSA was 16th in the agencies recieving funding, and the12th net job creating agency.  But on a job per dollar basis, the GSA the 6th most efficient job creating agency at $258,613.16 per job created.   

Do not fall into this statistical trap "$258k per job? We could have created five $50k jobs for that money!"  Remember, this dollars per job includes materials and costs of the jobs involved (bricks, mortar, etc.), which also have downstream job creating effects (brick makers, concrete haulers, etc.).

Tomorrow, I will post an interview I had at Greenbuild with Kevin Kampschroer, the Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings at GSA in which he gave insight not only into the GSA's experience with the Stimulus spending, but also on the long term impacts the Stimulus spending had on the operation of the GSA itself. 

GBLB is Thankful

It is quiet around the office today, giving me time to reflect on the past year and give thanks to all of the GBLB readers, friends and colleagues who help to keep me motivated and inspired.  In no particular order:

The media leaders--Lloyd Alter at Treehugger, Leslie Guevarra at Greener Buildings, the editors at Green Source, and Jonathan Hiskes at Grist

The green law bloggers--Chris Cheatham at Green Building Law Update and Steve Del Percio at Green Real Estate Law Journal

The construction law gurus-- Doug Reiser at Reiser Legal, Chris Hill at Construction Law Musings, and Tim Hughes at Virginia Real Estate, Land Use and Construction Law Blog, Matt Devries at Best Practice Construction Law, Scott Wolfe at Construction Law Monitor

The newsmakers--Sustainable Cities Collective, Greener Buildings, Cleantechies, ENN, Green Source, Green Economy Post , Women of Green, Mother Nature Network, Planetizen

Other special people--James Bedell , Susan Dorn, Stuart Kaplow and many, many others.

And, of course, my loyal husband and urban designer extraordinaire, Seth Shapiro.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!




Cool Kids and Geeks Come Together To Launch IGCC (and 4 other highlights of GreenBuild 2010)

Last week I attended GreenBuild in Chicago, and spoke on a panel with my fellow green law bloggers about the future of green building law and policy.  We are planning a joint follow-up post on our predictions with Lloyd Alter at Treehugger which will come out in the next few days.  But there were many other highlights of the conference:

1.  Launch of the International Green Construction Code Version 2.0-- The design and construction community can sometimes seem a bit like high school.  In those terms, the AIA would be the cool kids, ASHRAE, ASTM and IES would be the geeks and the USGBC would be the rebels (although they would not be smoking--bad for the air quality).  These factions have not been known for the cooperative efforts.  However, all of these groups have come together to jointly develop and launch the International Green Construction Code.  Moreover, at the press conference the presidents of these organizations pledged to work on training and funding for code officials to make implmentation of the IGCC   Version 2.0 was launched at GreenBuild, and can be downloaded here.

2.  LEED Volume Program--For entities with large numbers of buildings to certify (think PNC Bank), the USGBC has developed a mechanism for certifying prototypes and streamlining the certification process.  Good news for big chains who want to develop their portfolio of green buildings!  FAQs with information on how the process works and who is eligible are available here.  But there remains a question--how will the USGBC verify that each building complies with LEED? They promise random audits, but that will require a lot of manpower and devotion of resources.

3. LEED Automation--The USGBC announced that it will open LEED online to third party IT vendors, which should make better software for streamlining the LEED submission process. Perhaps this signals the USGBC coming in from behind the school and bringing their lunch to the computer lab. 

4.  New contract documents--The USGBC is trying to make its certification agreements and other legal documents better and more appropriate to the relationships among the green building team participants.  Among the changes is an agency form for the design professional:

we are going to provide an agency form for design team members to use to show an agency relationship between themselves and the project owner. The form allows the project's owner to appoint the design professional to sign the agreements only as the owner's representative, thus relieving the design professional and his firm from obligations undertaken by the owner under the agreements. Use of this form removes certain obligations from the project team, such as reporting requirements associated with MPR6, and assigns them on the owners who are better able to ensure compliance with such requirements.

New contract documents are due out by the end of the year. 

5. Notable lack of dealmakers--When I attended GreenBuild Boston, I was overwhelmed by the numbers of banks, insurance people, consultants and so forth that had booths on the exhibit floor.  This year I saw many more products, and fewer dealmakers.   Bank of America was the only financier with any presence at the conference.  I was surprised not to see at least PNC which boasts so many LEED outlets.  I am concerned that this reflects the ongoing weakness in the construction industry, but a hopeful sign was the 30,000 or so people who attended.  Perhaps electing to take a booth was a decision which had to be made when the recovery was still nacent and uncertain. 

I would love to hear from my readers who attended.  What did you see that left an impression on you? 


The Secret Life Of GBLB: Greenbuild Legal Forum 11/18

This Thursday I will be speaking at the Greenbuild Legal Forum about upcoming trends in green building law and policy with my fellow bloggers Chris Cheatham of Green Building Law Update and Steve Del Percio of Green Real Estate Law Journal

The panel will be held:

Thursday, November 18, 2010 – 8:30am-11:30am
Room 193AB, McCormick Place West



I will be covering lots of great substantive topics, with a focus on upcoming regulatory issues, including:

  • Stimulus
  • Impact of the 2010 Mid-term elections
  • Leaked White House documents on the future of renewable energy/energy efficiency loan guarantees
  • Ballot initatives
  • Utility regulation
  • PACE/DOE Home Energy Pilot Loan Guarantees

I will also give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into my life as a green law blogger. Join us for a discussion that promises to be both informative and controversial. 

HUD Announces Energy Efficient Home Loan Pilot Progran

Today HUD announced a pilot program to finance $25 million in home efficiency upgrade loans:

Backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), these new FHA PowerSaver loans will offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of insulation, duct sealing, doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.

Under the Pilot Program, HUD, through FHA-approved lenders, will insure loans for homeowners who are seeking to make energy improvements to their homes. 

This pilot loan program is interesting in the wake of the PACE controversy, wherein property tax-based financing of home efficiency improvements were rejected by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, among others.  More information on the PACE controversy is available here.

A big issue with the PACE structure was that the PACE loans were superior in priority to the mortgages. Will the FHA Powersaver loans be subordinated to the mortgages on the homes? The guidance does not say.

Living Up To My Green China: USGBC Opens LEED For Public Comment

My two and a half year old daughter likes conversations about pee.  She is not the only one in my life, apparently.  To my infinite surprise, one of the top rated posts on GBLB over the past year was the one I did in February on waterless urinal problems

Either we are about to see a wealth of suits related to waterless plumbing failures or it is representative of the trend where people ascribe old problems to failures of new technology.  New technology is not without its pitfalls--as any user of a new version of Windows is familiar with--but people also have heightened expectations of what new technology can achieve. 

For example, one of the main issues with waterless urinals is odor.  However, according to my husband, the smell of conventional urinals at the average sports arena is nothing to write home about. In addition, according to at least one report from

Rasmussen’s department also has fielded complaints about odors related to the units, but more often than not, the problem is related to housekeeping methods rather than the unit’s operation.

So, new technology has two potential pitfalls--the technology itself, and how it is used.

Like waterless urinals, the LEED system is not perfect, and some say they both smell funny. But the tools that LEED provides are only as good--or bad--as the people who use them.  In defining LEED, the USGBC states:

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

If you choose a difficult site, your energy model is lousy, your architect acheives points for slapping a bike rack on the project, and you value engineer out the shading on the windows, I can promise you that your building will not live up to green expectations, even if you get your LEED plaque.  A building team that doesn't use the LEED system, but still works hard to conserve energy, water and other resources throughout the building process will undoubtedly be more environmentally friendly than a conventional building, and even some LEED buildings. 

Many argue that because both of these scenarios are possible, LEED is a failure.  However, the point of LEED, and at some level its greatest triumph, is getting the whole building industry to think about five key areas of sustainability in the built environment--site, water, energy, air quality and materials.  It also gives any building team guidance and structure on how to move towards sustainability on each of these metrics.

More importantly, any new system must have the capacity to incorporate feedback (good or bad) and improve.  Keep the good, and make sure what is "bad" is really bad, and not just unfamiliar or the result of heightened expectations, and evolve.  In that vein, USGBC opened the new LEED systems for public comment today.  If you hate LEED, this is your chance to tell the USGBC that, and have a voice in changing the system. But when you criticize LEED, make sure what you are criticizing is about failures with LEED, and not about unachieveable expectations for what LEED can do. 

As my friend Mitch Swann once  told me, LEED will not make you taller or grow more hair, any more than the waterless urinals will help the situation in the men's rooms at Citizen's Bank Park.

PS: For the reference in the title of this post, please see here.


Come See The Bad Boys (and Girl) Of Green Building Law At Greenbuild

Chris Cheatham of Green Building Law Update, Stephen Del Percio of Green Real Estate Law Journal and, of course, me are going to be speaking about the future of green law at Greenbuild. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010 – 8:30am-11:30am
Room 193AB, McCormick Place West


A full decription of the legal panel (and the other exciting guest stars!) is available here:

What The Election Of 2010 Means For Green: Not much.

As a self-proclaimed East Coast liberal intellectual who drinks Starbucks Grande Nonfat Decaf Lattes on a regular basis, I woke up this morning after the Mid-term elections of 2010 with a heavy heart.  I thought to myself, as I took public transportation to my office from my energy efficient townhouse in Center City Philadelphia, what will happen to environmental policy in this country? Now that the Republicans have the majority of the House, and spooked the pants off my latte-drinking bretheren on the left, has the green revolution been quashed before it even really got started? Surely cap-and-trade is off the table, and incentives for renewable energy and green building will be scrapped or allowed to sunset without renewal under the guise of "balancing the budget."

Reading the headlines did nothing to cheer me up. Politico calculated the cap-and-trade losses:

Nearly 30 (and counting) who cast ‘aye’ votes for Waxman-Markey were swept away on Tuesday’s anti-incumbent wave.

As I moped through my morning coffee, considering the appeal of starting a hedge fund or opening a high-end craft store (my secret dream), it slowly dawned on me that the mid-term elections had essentially changed nothing.  Even with majorities in the Senate, the House AND the White House, cap-and-trade went nowhere.

Incentives are valuable for renewable energy projects and green buildings, but projects that depend entirely on incentives to pencil out are not sustainable in the long run.  The incentives would have to end eventually, and this way Democrats will not be forced to make the hard decision about when and how to do it.  They will not have to spend political capital and material resources on propping up or renewing stimulus incentives, but can instead devote their energy towards building the political climate which will embrace green. 

Not that this helped my mood, but the world is still warming and there are still terrorists in the Middle East.   The green revolution may have suffered a setback in yesterday's election, but the two essential underpinnings for the green revolution and moving to renewable energy have not changed.  

Finally, perhaps this is a wake up call to recognize how hard the task of creating a green America really is.  The winds of politics are very changeable, and the American people have priorities other than the environment.  If Americans are not electing politicians who prioritize the environment, then the revolution has not come yet.  Moreover, if the success of the green revolution depends entirely on who is in power politically, it is not a revolution at all.  It is a pork project.  To have a revolution, the hearts and minds of the people (to borrow a phrase) have to be changed, one person at a time.  That process is slow, and subject to lots of setbacks.  Just ask Jimmy Carter.