Blog Post

Obama Calls for Recovery With Energy-Efficient Public Buildings

As part of his Economic Recovery Plan that he hopes will create 2.5 million new jobs, President-elect Barack Obama is calling for an effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. In his weekly radio address, Obama announced a plan to seek energy-efficient upgrades for federal and public school buildings (see video below).

Obama provided few details on how the green building makeover would work — or how many jobs it could provide — but he said he would start by replacing old heating systems and installing energy-efficient lighting. “Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that,” he stated. He said he would unveil more about the plan in the coming weeks and push to have congress start working to get the plan approved in January.

While clean energy initiatives like adding solar to the roofs of buildings tend to receive the bulk of attention, making buildings more energy efficient is typically a more cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions. There’s a great article in the Christian Science Monitor from November detailing how this works and some of the programs from energy-efficient building startup Sustainable Spaces.

The federal government has largely been slow to recognize the importance of making buildings more energy efficient, and states and local organizations have been leading these efforts. Oregon’s governor Ted Kulongoski wants to mandate a rating and certification program that would disclose the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of buildings that would start in 2011 for homes and in 2012 for commercial buildings. Nevada has a similar law.

But many in the building industry, green and otherwise, would prefer a national standard — Sustainable Spaces CEO Matt Golden tells us that state programs are part of the solution but that these need to be standardized nationally. Compared to varying standards across states and counties, a national standard could simplify and unify the effort to make buildings more energy efficient, as well as help to give a boost to the nascent market.