Drivers of Change: A discussion with Chris Luebkeman, Director for Global Foresight & Innovation, Arup Group, London. Listen >>

Green Talk: Sustainable Building Center Co-Director Discusses LEED, Green Guide for Health Care Listen >>

By signing the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 7% from 1990 levels by 2012, more than 300 mayors have pledged to meet Kyoto Protocol goals, even though the U.S. did not ratify the pact.

“This will take a grass-roots movement that U.S. mayors are in a position to help lead,” says Douglas Palmer (D), mayor of Trenton, N.J., and current Conference of Mayors president. The mayors are requesting a $4-billion energy and environment block grant from the federal government.

In another effort, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia joined 19 of the world’s largest cities by signing the 2005 Clinton Climate Initiative in August. CCI aims to help cities set emissions baselines. It provides technical assistance for developing implementation plans and helps pool members’ purchasing power to cut costs of energy-saving products.

“...U.S. mayors are in a position to help lead.”
— Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer,
President, U.S. Conference Of Mayors

States are also jumping on the bandwagon. So far, 18 have mandated green standards for new state buildings.

And global warming is a priority of the new Democrat-controlled Congress. Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.-D), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has called for two subcommittees on the issue and hopes to introduce a climate bill this year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.-D) also has proposed a global warming committee.

In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush outlined the need to “confront the serious challenge of global climate change.” He called for reducing projected gasoline usage by 20% in the next 10 years and recommended a fuel standard that would require the use of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017. The President also is asking Congress for $9 billion toward loan guarantees for development of alternative energy sources. In January, Bush issued an executive order that calls for federal agencies to reduce energy consumption by 3% annually through 2015.

Though buildings are responsible for nearly half of greenhouse-gas emissions, they are not yet on the congressional radar. But Congress could take a cue from the U.S. General Services Administration, which requires its new and renovated buildings meet U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

“Tax credits, zoning allowances and green enterprise zones are things that encourage the private sector, but if the feds try to mandate the private sector, you’ll see an uproar of opposition,” says Paul Mendelsohn, senior director of state and local affairs for the American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C.

AIA and other groups are pushing for an extension, to 2013, of the Commercial Building Tax Deduction for energy-efficiency expenditures, with an increase of $1.80 to $2.25 per sq ft. AIA also issued the 2030 Challenge, which calls for immediate reduction of energy use to half the national average, with the goal of achieving carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. The Building Owners and Managers Association is among groups backing the 2030 Challenge, estimating that its members can reduce energy consumption by 30% by 2010. The National Association of Home Builders touts that by year-end, more than half its members will adopt green building practices.

Atlanta-based American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers supports AIA’s effort as well as CCI’s. At its winter meeting last month, ASHRAE discussed efforts to set tougher energy-efficiency goals in Standard 90.1-2010. The 2007 guidelines call for a 5% to 7% efficiency increase over the 2004 baseline. ASHRAE also is continuing work on proposed Standard 189, which would set a baseline for green building. John Hogan, chair of SPC 189, said during the meeting that ideas on the table include requirements for sustainable sites, reduction of indoor water use by at least 25% and requirements for recycled and regionally manufactured materials. Draft proposals may be released in April.

As standards develop, they also overlap. While USGBC’s LEED guidelines continue to gain favor, competing efforts, such as Green Building Initiatives’ Green Globes, are on the scene. NAHB also is drafting standards for residential homes.

The Associated General Contractors of America advocates multiple green building standards. With hundreds of federal, state and local government agencies adopting LEED guidelines, AGC is concerned that green building practices could become limited.

To manage all the green activity, stakeholders, including AIA, USGBC and ASHRAE, gathered in November at the 2006 Greenbuild conference in Denver. A primary objective was to set a baseline from which to build common goals.

special theme issue:
  1. Dire Global Warnings Inspire Promising Antidotes to 'Civilization'

  2. View a Time Line of Environmental Twists and Turns, from 1938 to 2007 (1.7MB)

  3. Report Lights Fires Globally on Need To Slow Climate Change

  4. Politicians, Builder Groups Jump on the Green-Building Bandwagon

  5. Climate Shifts Have Engineers Rethinking Baseline of Planning

  6. Designers Look To Nature To Render Buildings in Harmony with Earth

  7. Companies Often Go Green To Reap Financial Rewards

  8. Officials Begin To Ask Just How Green a Highway Can Be

  9. Educators Issue Call for Green Programs That Cross Disciplines

  10. Coming Carbon Constraints Spur Powerplant-Emission Cleanups

  11. Eco-Friendly Engine Pioneers Search for Sources of Clean Power

  12. Big Zero-Carbon Project Planned in U.K.

  13. Template for Green Cities Nears in Asia

  14. An Agitated Port Official Pushes for Collaboration

  15. Human Role in Climate Change Is 90% Certain

  16. More to read:
  17. When Less Powered More
  18. Barometer of Change at NOAA
  19. In Search of the Zero-Energy Holy Grail
  20. Green Building Council Hones Rating System