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June Issue of THE RHYTHM REPORT

 |  06/30/11 @ 9:44am

In Regional News, PNC Smart Home opened at the CMNH; tracking Ohio consumers energy savings; LEEDCo announces a revenue sharing plan; the City of Cleveland is honored with Sustainable Economic Development award; local students and the Drink Local Drink Tap initiative ready for their trip to Uganda, and CWRU receives funding to research the durability of renewables technologies.  

Accompanying the summer solstice this month are new studies examining the green building / energy markets, including which cities offer the best opportunity for sustainable building, how facility managers are implementing energy efficiency and an examination of the potential for job growth based on Obama's Better Buildings Initiative.  

Other news over the last month has focused on the rolling out of a few new programs by the DOE and EPA; the introduction of ISO 50001; the growing importance of green building bonding; new financing opportunities, and the Institute of Medicine's caution on how the industry approaches retrofitting.

With a report by the Business Roundtable, best practices knowledge sharing is gaining more traction in the  Sustainability Marketplace. Meanwhile, Accenture examines market penetration and the Brookings Institute analyzes Climate Change attitudes in Canada and the US. 

 

Northeast Ohio's First Passive House Walks in Green Pioneers Footsteps   

From Green City Blue Lake

By Marc Lefkowitz

June 7, 2011

 

  

SmartHome Cleveland opening with CMNH development director Bill Leynerd and GCBL Director David Beach Northeast Ohio's first passive house, the PNC SmartHome, opened today. Built to respond to the concerns in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's upcoming "Climate Change" exhibit, the 2,500 square foot, 3-bedroom, 2 ˝ bath home assembles some of the world's greenest technological advancements and packages it in a super-insulated shell.

 

More than the sum of its parts, the SmartHome represents decades of green building wisdom passed down through generations and honed in the craft of builders like Jim LaRue and architects Bill Doty and Chuck Miller, the latter intimately involved piecing together the SmartHome's systems, but also reaching back to the 1970s passive solar homes which offered simple design lessons like orientation to maximize the sun's energy.

 

It's an impressive milestone for the region, surpassing even the wildest dreams of the visionaries who started exploring 'green' homes here 30 years ago, says LaRue of Shaker Heights who is widely considered the 'godfather' of green building.

At today's ribbon cutting, UCI president Chris Ronayne and Cleveland Sustainability Chief Andrew Watterson alluded to the achievements in recent decades for green building. The SmartHome followed in their footsteps as green building progressed from concept and early demonstration projects like 1999's Adam J. Lewis Environmental Center in Oberlin to today where dozens of green buildings dot the Northeast Ohio landscape.

 

"My hope is what seems new with the SmartHome will be commonplace in five years," remarked LaRue, who, along with the late Carlton Rush (both pictured right) kicked off a new interest in green homes in 2001 in Slavic Village and went on to consult on numerous others including two Cleveland EcoVillage green homes.

Continue reading 

 

Energy Efficiency Programs Saving Ohio Consumers Millions -

Alternative is Expensive New Generation, Higher Bills

From Ohio Environmental Council 

May 26, 2011  

Ohio's Energy Efficiency Programs leave money in the pockets of residential, industrial, and commercial energy customers

 

Today, new customer savings figures released by energy experts and environmental advocates show that energy efficiency programs are the cheapest and cleanest way to serve Ohio's energy needs.

By establishing energy efficiency programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers, Ohio utilities saved consumers a collective $56 million between 2009 and 2010, over and above the cost to run the programs.

Ohio Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet 

 

Additionally, energy efficiency programs implemented by three of the our major public utilities significantly reduced demand on electric generation, collectively saving enough electricity to power 181,000 homes for one year.

For the average citizen, the savings can be dramatic. The analysis, compiled by experts with decades of experience in energy policy, demonstrates that for each $1 that American Electric Power, Duke Energy and Dayton Power & Light spent on energy efficiency programs, customers will save $4.70 over the lifetime of the implemented technologies.

 

By the end of this year, energy saved through the efficiency standard will be outpacing Ohio's expected  

average annual growth in electric consumption.

 

"Ohio's landmark energy law is working," Said Martin Kushler, Ph.D, a Senior Fellow at ACEEE. "These savings created in 2010 will continue every year for years to come, a money and energy-saving dividend for the people of the state of Ohio."

 

In 2008, Senate Bill 221 was enacted with wide bipartisan support and required utilities to deploy cost-effective energy efficiency programs. These programs will save consumers an increasing amount of energy each year through 2025. By law and rule, the energy efficiency programs must cost significantly less than the electricity that is saved. Accordingly, every utility's program is saving utility customers more than it costs.

 

"These early numbers are very impressive," noted Dylan Sullivan, Energy Associate for NRDC. "Over the life of the measures these early programs are likely to save customers in excess of three-quarter of a billion dollars - and this is just the beginning. Program goals increase over time."

Continue reading 

 

Cleveland One of Five Communities to Win Green Plus(TM) Award for Innovation in Sustainable Economic Development

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jun. 21 /CSRwire/ - The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland, OH, Savannah, GA, and North Myrtle Beach, SC, were each awarded a 2011 Green Plus?Award for community-based innovation in sustainable economic development. The awards were made at PNC Bank regional headquarters in Washington, D.C. by the Institute for Sustainable Development, Partners for Livable Communities, and the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

 

Following the awards, representatives of the winning communities participated in a panel discussion with a diverse group of national business leaders and public officials including representatives of the U.S. Senate and House, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE), and Climate Prosperity Project (CPP). The group discussed how innovation at the local level can provide a roadmap for a more successful, sustainable national economy, provided there is a civil discussion between the nation's two major political parties and coordination among agencies including the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Local students help bring clean drinking water to children in Uganda Clevelanders traveling to Africa for well project

newsnet5.com 

By: Ted Kortan

June 7, 2011  

 

CLEVELAND - All through this school year, students at Cleveland's Stokes Central Academy have been working to help children without fresh drinking water in Uganda.

 

Now as school lets out for summer, one of their teachers will be part of a group traveling to the east African nation to further the cause.

Middle school teacher Teddy Nantambimwonyonyi (students use Mwonyonyi), a native Ugandan, will return to her homeland with a film crew, and Erin Huber, the director of Northeast Ohio based 'Drink Local. Drink Tap.,' a grass-roots fresh water sustainability organization.

 

The trip is the next step in an effort to build a drinking water well for the 700 children who attend the St. Charles School in the arid Luwero district of central Uganda, just north of the equator.

Continue reading and to view the video 

 

S-DLE Center to boost durability, lifetime of solar power plants

State awards $2.88 million to collaboration between Case Western Reserve University and industry

 

Case Western Reserve University and industry are teaming up to dramatically improve the productive lifetime of solar energy technologies, energy-efficient lighting, roofing, building exteriors and more.

 

The effort received a boost from the state this week, when the Ohio Third Frontier Commission recommended a $2.88 million grant to help fund the Solar-Durability and Lifetime Extension Center at Case Western Reserve. Awarded under the Third Frontier Wright Projects Program, the S-DLE Center will include new labs and a sun farm on campus.

 

Such a center fills a critical need cited by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Energy Department says establishing and implementing lifetime and degradation science for advanced energy and energy efficiency products, especially early in development, is crucial to U.S. competitiveness.

Continue reading 

 

LEEDCo, Four Counties Sign Revenue-Sharing Agreement For Offshore Wind Project

May 27 2011

 

Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (LEEDCo), the private corporation spearheading the development of a Lake Erie wind farm, and four regional counties - Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lake and Lorain - have signed a revenue-sharing agreement that will give each county a percentage of income generated by the annual submerged-land lease payment.

The boundaries for each of the four counties extend into Lake Erie. LEEDCo's proposal includes a five-turbine, 20 MW wind farm in Lake Erie.

 

Earlier this year, LEEDCo secured a submerged-land lease option from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the regulating authority of the Lake Erie waters. The option designates nine square miles off the shores of downtown Cleveland.

Once the submerged-land lease is signed, LEEDCo will make annual payments to the state of Ohio, totaling approximately $11,000 per turbine. The state will return half of the revenue to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, which will keep 40%. The port authority is responsible for redistributing the remaining 60% according to the revenue-sharing formula evenly divided among Ashtabula, Lake and Lorain counties.

 

Upon completion of a five-year period, LEEDCo's allocation committee - which includes members from each county - will review the formula and determine future agreements. The agreement is only bound to the initial project scheduled for Cuyahoga County's jurisdictional waters.

Market Reports

Green Building Opportunity Index  

 

Cushman & Wakefield, in collaboration with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance's (NEEA) BetterBricks initiative

 

Top U.S. Markets Ranked in Second Annual 2011 Green Building Opportunity Index

June 23, 2011 

 

San Francisco again leads the 30 largest office markets for green opportunities, according to the 2011 Green Building Opportunity Index released by global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, in collaboration with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance's (NEEA) BetterBricks initiative.

 

The Green Building Opportunity Index remains the first office market assessment tool to provide weighted comparisons of top U.S. office markets on the basis of both real estate fundamentals and green development considerations.  As in the inaugural 2010 version, the Index focuses on the primary factors that influence successful development, retrofitting, leasing and sales of investment grade green office buildings in the largest U.S. Central Business Districts (CBDs). It compares a market's relative position to its peers in six categories: Office Market Conditions, Investment Outlook, Green Adoption & Implementation, Local Mandates & Incentives, State Energy Initiatives and Green Culture.  For 2011, the Index has been enhanced by adding five new markets and refining the methodology and data inputs - yielding a more comprehensive view into market influences that determine where sustainable development brings competitive advantages.

 

 

Continue reading 

To download the study 

 

Growing number of building owners around the world combating rising energy prices by pursuing energy efficiency

June 16, 2011

 

Rising energy prices, government incentives and enhanced public image are driving energy efficiency in buildings to new heights as a growing number of building owners race to reduce energy consumption, according to the results of the fifth annual, global Energy Efficiency Indicator survey.

 

The survey of nearly 4,000 building owners and operators around the world was led by Johnson Controls' Institute for Building Efficiency, the International Facility Management Association and the Urban Land Institute.

5th Annual Global Energy Efficiency Survey Shows:

· Energy cost savings, government incentives and enhanced public image the biggest motivators for energy-efficiency investments

· Green building movement reaches new heights with nearly four in 10 achieving certifications, twice as many as last year

· North America building owners expect lighting and smart building technology to play major role in the future

"We are seeing record levels of energy management and reduction projects around the world, driven mainly by financial reasons, more than environmental concerns," said Dave Myers, vice president and president of Building Efficiency for Johnson Controls. "Regardless of the motivations, buildings account for 42 percent of global energy usage, so the growing trend of making buildings more energy efficient is smart business, helps create local-market jobs, and benefits the environment. We applaud building owners for stepping up efforts to make their facilities more energy efficient and sustainable."

Although the primary motivation for energy efficiency projects continued to be energy cost savings, government incentives and enhanced public image were also important, ranking second and third in the survey.  Greenhouse gas reduction, which ranked as the second highest motivator in 2010, ranked fourth in 2011.

Continue reading and to download the report  

 

Study Reports Better Buildings Initiative Would Add 114,000 Jobs

eco-structure.com 

By Hallie Busta

June 21, 2011

The White House-sponsored Better Buildings Initiative is looking to improve energy efficiency among commercial and multifamily building stock while likely adding more than 114,000 new jobs according to an analysis by The Real Estate Roundtable (RER).

The program, which was announced in January 2011, is a series of proposed legislation and actions by federal agencies targeting the improved efficiency of commercial building. By activating private sector spending in upgrades and retrofits, the initiative hopes to add construction-industry jobs.

The RER, USGBC and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently commissioned the Political Economy Research Institute to analyze the Better Buildings Initiative to assess its potential to create jobs. According to the study:

- The Better Buildings Initiative would create more than 114,000 jobs.

- Over 77,000 new jobs would derive from a revised tax incentive to encourage building retrofits

- Jobs created at construction sites would spur more jobs in the manufacturing and private sectors

- Tax incentive would encourage at least three time as much private investment to make buildings more efficient.

- In all, savings to businesses in energy bills is expected to surpass $1.4 billion.

"This plan will help bring lenders into the retrofit market to provide financing for commercial building efficiency projects," says Ashok Gupta, director of energy policy at the NRDC. "Improving buildings' energy performance reduces harmful pollution associated with energy production while reducing bills for consumers and making business more competitive."

A summary of the report can be downloaded at usgbc.org/advocacy/BBIJobs.

 

Legal/Risk  

 

Green Performance Bonds Necessary But Risky

By Chris Cheatham

sustainablecitiescollective.com

June 3, 2011

 

Ever since I read the D.C. Green Building Act and its "performance bond" requirement, I have been morbidly interested in the idea of LEED bonds.  When Kristen Bradley, at SuretyBonds.com, offered to write an article on the topic, I couldn't help but say yes.  SuretyBonds.com, a nationwide surety bond producer, works with a number of construction companies and distributes information to help keep the industry's professionals updated on developing regulations.

 

As the concern for environmentalism continues to grow, so, too, do the regulations and systems involved with green building. Entrepreneurs continue to develop new building practices and products, and keeping up with new green building regulations can be challenging for some contractors. The growing concern for protection related to green building practices has only increased as new green products and regulations are pushed onto the construction industry. One possible solution for guaranteeing a contractor's compliance is the use of green performance bonds. However, concern regarding their implementation and enforceability continues to be heavily debated among stakeholders throughout the industry.

Confusion surrounding the 2006 Green Building Act

 

In 2006 the D.C. City Council passed legislation that would require green performance bonds to be used on construction projects beginning in 2012. However, no such bond actually existed when the legislation was passed. Although some advocates think the legislation's enactment will be crucial for the green building industry, contractors and government agencies alike have been struggling to clarify what the act actually means. As the deadline approaches, many construction professionals in the area are still confused as to what exactly will be expected of them.

 Continue reading

 

Case for Green Building

Efforts Needed To Ensure That Climate Mitigation Initiatives Do Not Cause Or Worsen Health Problems Linked To Indoor Air Quality  

 June 7, 2011

 AUSTIN, Texas - As alterations of weather patterns related to climate change become more common, people may face unexpected health problems resulting from both the effects of climate change on the indoor environment and the steps taken to mitigate those changes, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that climate change and the materials and methods used in building weatherization and energy-efficiency retrofits do not create new indoor problems or exacerbate existing ones, such as mold-causing dampness, secondhand smoke, and chemical emissions from building materials, said the committee that wrote the report. 

Indoor dampness, poor ventilation, excessive temperatures, and emissions from building materials and equipment such as back-up power generators all can contribute to health problems.  The push to improve buildings' energy efficiency has spurred more rapid introduction of untested new materials and building retrofits that limit and alter air flow and may concentrate indoor pollutants such as chemical emissions and environmental tobacco smoke.  Government agencies and other organizations are developing and promoting protocols to evaluate emissions from furnishings, building materials, and appliances, but more needs to be done to make prevention of health problems a priority, the report says.

"America is in the midst of a large experiment in which weatherization efforts, retrofits, and other initiatives that affect air exchange between the indoor and outdoor environments are taking place and new building materials and consumer products are being introduced indoors with relatively little consideration as to how they might affect the health of occupants," said committee chair John D. Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation, department of environmental health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.  "Experience suggests that some of the effects could be negative.  An upfront investment to consider the consequences of these actions before they play out and to avoid problems where they can be anticipated will yield benefits in health and in averted costs of medical care, remediation, and lost productivity."

Continue reading  

 

 

U.S. Department of Energy Announces Five BetterBuildings Case Studies That Highlight Key Lessons to Improve Energy Efficiency Programs Nationwide

May 26, 2011

 

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced the release of five case studies from a series spotlighting some of the most innovative projects funded under the Department's BetterBuildings program. BetterBuildings is a national program that is working to transform the marketplace for energy efficiency upgrades in homes, businesses, and institutions. More than 40 state and local governments and partnering organizations received over $500 million to lay the foundation for a sustainable energy efficiency market in the United States. The case studies released today will help program administrators and their partners develop and optimize energy efficiency programs to help consumers and businesses save money and reduce their energy use by making affordable energy-saving improvements.

The first five BetterBuildings case studies represent a significant first step by the program to share best practices, effective tools, and data about the performance of energy efficiency approaches. These case studies will be used as blueprints for future energy efficiency programs, and will help achieve DOE's goal of providing energy efficiency upgrades to one million homes by 2013. The release comes as a follow-up to the first What's Working in Residential Energy Efficiency Upgrade Programs Conference that took place in Washington, D.C. last week.

The case studies focus on four BetterBuildings partners in Seattle, Washington; Austin, Texas; Michigan; and Rutland, Vermont. The featured partners represent a diverse range of climates, participating partners, federal funding levels, and varying levels of local experience with energy efficiency upgrades. Each case study focuses on one vital element in the execution of an energy efficiency upgrade program-Getting Started, Program Design, Workforce, and Driving Demand. The case studies are designed and written to highlight the most successful and replicable components of the BetterBuildings partners' programs.

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Real Estate  

 

The Appraisal Foundation and the US Department of Energy to Collaborate on Issues Relating to Green Building Valuation

June 13, 2011

The Appraisal Foundation, the Congressional-authorized source of appraisal standards and appraiser qualifications in the United States, is pleased to announce that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, to collaborate on a series of activities focusing on energy efficiencies and the valuation of green buildings.

The Appraisal Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1987, is dedicated to the advancement of professional valuation and serves as the parent organization for three independent Boards:  the Appraisal Practices Board (APB), the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB), and the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB).  

A principal component of the MOU is that the generally accepted standards of the appraisal profession, the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), are applicable to green valuations.  Collaborative activities between The Appraisal Foundation and the Department of Energy will include:

Engaging the appraisal community on energy efficiency and green valuations. 

Development of additional guidance from all three of the Foundation's independent Boards relating to applicability of the existing standards to the valuation of green buildings.  This guidance could take on a number of forms such as USPAP Frequently Asked Questions or Advisory Opinions from the ASB, and voluntary guidance from the APB on recognized valuation methods and techniques.

Development of one or more databases, through the Department of Energy, to provide data on energy performance for specific building types and upgrades, to the valuation arena.  Data of this type has historically been sparse and/or difficult to collect, whereas this new initiative is intended to be of great assistance to the valuation community. 

Development of educational course curriculum, through the Department of Energy and based on the guidance of the Foundation's APB, relating to energy performance and sustainability in commercial buildings. 

The importance of energy efficiency is gaining traction throughout the marketplace.  On June 13, the issue was raised with President Barack Obama as part of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness meeting and is a component of his Better Buildings Initiative.

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Standards/Certifications 

 Ready for a New Green Building Standard? 

smartplanet.com 

By Heather Clancy

June 16, 2011

If you are a regular reader of SmartPlanet's coverage, you will doubtless be familiar with the U.S. Green Building Council's well-known framework for organizations seeking to make their facilities (of all types) more energy efficient: the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. Now, you'll need to familiarize yourself with another standard, ISO 50001 for energy management systems. In fact, energy management company Schneider Electric has already latched onto the standard: its global headquarters in France was the first building to earn the standard.

The standard, which was published this week, focuses on practices for how to integrate energy performance technologies and concerns into an overall facilities and operations management approach. The organization makes the point that ISO 50001 will offer a "single, harmonized standard" for multinational organizations. Translation: it helps companies get a better grip on their energy performance regardless of the country, allowing for cross-facility comparisons. The aims of the standard include:

Making better use of "energy-consuming" assets

Reinforcing energy management best practices

Helping facilities managers evaluate and prioritize the implementation of energy-efficient technologies

Enabling energy management improvements that directly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives

Supporting the integration of energy management systems with other key operations systems for environmental, health and safety

Continue reading

 

 

Furniture Trends: Green Certifications Get More Comprehensive

Changes are on the horizon for third-party green product certification initiatives.

Today's Facility Manager

By Stowe Hartridge-Beam and Nick Kordesch

May 2011 

Facility managers (fms) are familiar with green labeling programs, but there are key changes on the horizon. Green certifications are expanding from single attribute claims to more comprehensive measures of environmental performance.

For example, the building industry started with ENERGY STAR then developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Now that LEED has found broad recognition, efforts are underway to determine how to integrate life cycle assessment (LCA) into LEED. This shift is being driven by increasingly savvy buyers, suppliers, and consumers.

Single attribute certifications verify a specific claim about a product; for example, they verify it was made from recycled content. They represent one of the most common types of certification in the furniture world, and they are not going to disappear anytime soon. Furthermore, products carrying a single attribute certification like "recycled content" can help fms earn valuable LEED credits.  

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Despite Efforts, Many AIA Firms Fail to Meet Their 2030 Commitment

 BuildingGreen.com

By Nadav Malin

May 20, 2011

The 2030 Challenge established by Ed Mazria's organization Architecture 2030 sets a phased timeline for reducing fossil energy use in buildings, targeting net zero use for all new construction by the year 2030. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) endorsed that challenge, but worried about designers committing to goals that depend on decisions made by their clients. In response, AIA created the 2030 Commitment in 2009 as a way for design firms to engage with the Challenge on terms they can control. The freshly released first annual report shows progress from some firms and difficulty meeting the commitment from others, as 52% of the "committed" firms didn't provide the required data, and many more have yet to engage with the program at all.

The Commitment has two distinct parts, one about firm operations and the other about their design portfolios. The report aggregates the responses from individual firms, so readers can't use it to compare one firm's results with another's. But it does list all the firms that have signed the Commitment and identifies which ones did and did not meet their reporting commitment-which may embarrass the others into getting their act together next year. Sustainable design directors at several of these firms told EBN that they were close to having all the data ready, but were unable to meet the reporting deadline due to the challenges of figuring out a new system in an environment constrained by staff cuts and high workload.

Continue reading

 

Energy  

Energy Sleuths in Pursuit Of the Truly Green Building

e360.yale.edu 

By Richard Conniff

May 20, 2011 

The practice of "commissioning," in which an engineer monitors the efficiency of a building from its design through its initial operation, just may be the most effective strategy for reducing long-term energy usage, costs, and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. So why is it so seldom used?

In a different world, it could be a reality television show - "Buildings On Trial," with a street-savvy engineer going into skyscrapers, factories, offices and other commercial buildings to find the dumb mistakes that make them waste energy and produce a disproportionate share of the nation's global warming emissions.

And in almost every case, even new buildings proudly displaying a LEED "green building" plaque by the front door, the engineer would come back out with a list of energy hog culprits: Here's the ventilation system fan installed backwards, so it blows full force into another fan blowing in the right direction. Here's the control system set up so heating and cooling systems both work at once, like driving with your feet on the brakes and the accelerator at the same time. Here are the stuck dampers that prevent the building from drawing on outside air when the temperature is right.

Continue reading  

Government  

 HUD and EPA Launch Effort to Build Sustainable Communitie

triplepundit.com 

By Leon Kaye

June 16th, 2011

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are not necessarily two organizations that suggest synergy.  HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, however, announced this week that the agencies have launched a grant program that will help build more sustainably-built and transit-friendly communities.

The total amount of grants is a mere token:  US$5.6 million, or about the price for a small parcel in Silicon Valley.  Nevertheless, the program builds upon ideas like that of urban studies theorist Richard Florida, who recently pointed out that transit-friendly communities can make a big financial difference for families.  Americans' love for-and what has often become dependence upon-automobiles have in the long run often created a financial burden on families. One study has suggested that an address in a neighborhood with seamless transit options can boost a family's disposable income on average by 16%, a big difference in a challenging economy.  Arguments over the efficacy of large scale rail projects mostly focus on macroeconomic factors, with both sides of the discussion having merit.  The effects that access to easy public transportation can have on families, however,  are factors that policy makers should take into consideration.

To that end, the program, "Capacity Building for Sustainable Communities," kicked off yesterday with a webcast that announced the program and how organizations can explore its funding opportunities.  The goal is to create a network of current and future HUD and EPA grantees that can share ideas about sustainable building, transit projects, and the resulting best practices when cities apply both of them simultaneously.

As usual, the private sector, non-profit communities, and local governments are far ahead on this issue.  LEED, of course, takes into account access to public transportation.  Cities like Portland, Oregon, have taken into account transit access and residential development as far back as 40 years ago.  The challenge, however, is creating residential developments with seamless access to public transit that are affordable, which these days is defined as the low end of 6 figures instead of closer to a 7-figure housing price tag.

Continue reading    

 

HUD Unveils Green Refinance Program

New program will allow owners of existing affordable rental housing developments to refinance into new mortgages that include funding for energy-efficient upgrades.

eco-home.com 

By: Donna Kimura

June 9, 2011

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new program that will allow owners of existing affordable rental housing developments to refinance into new mortgages that include funding for energy-efficient upgrades. Under Green Refinance Plus, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae will share the risk on loans to refinance existing rent-restricted projects while allowing owners to borrow additional funds to make the green retrofits.

 HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Ken Bacon, vice president for multifamily business at Fannie Mae, announced the new program May 31 at Eden Issei Terrace, a 100-unit affordable seniors housing development in Hayward, Calif. Owned by Eden Housing, the nearly 30-year-old property recently underwent a rehab that included the addition of water-saving fixtures and solar panels. Green Refinance Plus is intended to refinance the expiring mortgages of low-income housing tax credit and other affordable projects and to lower annual operating costs by reducing energy consumption. Fannie Mae and HUD anticipate approximately $100 million in initial refinance volume with an average loan amount of $3.5 to $5 million.

 FHA will insure up to an additional 4 percent to 5 percent of the loan amount, or an average of approximately $150,000 to $250,000 per loan, to provide additional loan funds to pay for property improvements that save energy and water costs for owners and tenants, such as energy-efficient windows and Energy Star appliances, as well as other needed property renovations. In addition to helping affordable housing owners and residents save money on their utility bills, the green retrofit work will create valuable jobs in many communities, Donovan said.

 Continue reading 

 

Finance   

 Bank of America Announces New Energy Efficiency Finance Program

May 25, 2011

In its ongoing effort to provide capital that helps reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, Bank of America today announced a new $55 million program to encourage energy efficiency improvements to older buildings. The new competitive program will provide low-cost loans and grants to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) specializing in financing energy efficiency improvements.

Older properties consume far more energy and often have higher costs for electricity, heating and air conditioning than newer buildings. CDFIs in local markets are developing innovative solutions to address barriers that have kept many property owners from financing important energy efficiency upgrades that can immediately save energy and, over time, save money. Bank of America will select up to 12 CDFIs with the most effective solutions for funding to scale on a national level as part of its new program.

"Residential and commercial buildings account for approximately 40 percent of all primary energy consumption in the United States. That's why, if we really want to address climate change, we have to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings, particularly older ones that tend to be the least efficient," said Anne Finucane, Global Strategy and Marketing officer, Bank of America. "Through this program, Bank of America will fund the community lenders that have developed creative and effective approaches to financing energy efficient retrofits, with the aim of bringing these innovative financing structures to scale for greatest impact in reducing U.S. carbon emissions."

"Making our existing building stock more energy- and resource-efficient is the best way to create jobs, save energy and save money," said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). "The fact that Bank of America is not only launching this program, but gathering data and reporting on the conclusions will help enhance the effectiveness of the existing building sector."

Continue reading 

 

Sustainability 

 Leading U.S. CEOs Share Innovative Sustainability Solutions, Successes

Business Roundtable releases report with best practices and success metrics from more than 100 member companies

April 20, 2011

115 CEOs of leading U.S. companies reported on their businesses' commitments to making their operations and their value chains more sustainable in Innovating Sustainability, Business Roundtable's report on the sustainability initiatives of its member companies. Business Roundtable member companies represent virtually every sector of the economy, with nearly $6 trillion in annual revenues and more than 13 million employees. 

 "American businesses face a range of challenges and opportunities that require creative and innovative thinking," said Mike Morris, Chair of Business Roundtable's Sustainable Growth Initiative and Chairman and CEO, American Electric Power. "Every day they challenge themselves to do things better, smarter and with results that improve the life we live. It's that kind of thinking that will make our nation more sustainable, drive growth and create American jobs.

Innovating Sustainability is part of Business Roundtable's ongoing efforts to promote, measure and share sustainability best practices through our pioneering initiative S.E.E. Change (Society, Environment, Economy). Companies involved in this program work to adopt business strategies and projects that can measurably improve society, the environment and the economy.

"Sustainable business strategies are no longer optional," said Morris. "Our members understand that these strategies must be rooted in their core business plans. Today's report showcases their success stories, innovative sustainability solutions and best practices."

For more information on Business Roundtable's Innovating Sustainability 2011 and to hear directly from several Business Roundtable member company CEOs through video testimonials, please click here.

Sustainability initiatives exceed expectations, businesses say

 By Anne Marie Mohan 

greenerpackage.com  

June 1, 2011

New survey shows that sustainability is becoming an integrated part of the majority of business operations today, providing benefits such as lower costs and an improved brand.

 The majority of businesses say that the benefits resulting from their sustainability initiatives have exceeded expectations, according to an international survey by Accenture. But a hard-core minor

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See if your neighborhood is costing or saving you more than the average

Find local food

Find local food >

Explore local food resources and a map of farmers markets in Northeast Ohio

10 best ecological restoration

10 best ecological restoration >

Cities are healthier as a whole when nature is invited in.