Turning Buildings Green; States Take the Lead

Green buildings take a more holistic approach to construction and look to minimize waste and maximize efficiency.
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A new United Nations report this week, backed by scientists around the world, confirms that not only is global warming real, but its effects are already here and getting worse. And the hard fact is, the United States consumes far more energy than any other country, more than China and Russia combined.

And while we often think about gas guzzling SUVs or industrial pollution as the main energy villains, there is a lesser known, more wasteful energy consumer that we don't hear much about, namely the every day energy use of our buildings. As this Dispatch will highlight, states and local governments are moving forward with policies to construct a new generation of "green buildings" to sharply reduce energy use and help curb the energy-related emissions contributing to global warming.

In fact, US buildings:

* Account for 39 percent of the total annual U.S. energy consumption.
* Account for the release of 600 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a number that increases every year.
* And each year, U.S. builders produce between 30 and 35 million tons of construction, renovation and demolition waste.

Green buildings take a more holistic approach to construction and look to minimize waste and maximize efficiency. Green building also takes into consideration the overall environmental effect of land use and siting to minimize environmental disturbances.

Already several states require state-funded projects to be built according to standards that are set by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Council uses a ratings system, known as the LEED system, to give credits for implementing green building measures, such as using solar energy or reducing water use.

In 2005, Washington became the first state to adopt green building requirements for their state-funded projects. Their policy requires that state-funded projects over 5,000 square feet, including schools, be built according to LEED standards. Connecticut, Nevada, Rhode Island and Arizona also implemented green building standards for state-funded buildings. Arizona's standard was implemented through an executive order from the governor.

Nationwide, momentum behind promoting green buildings is increasing and several states have active bills in their legislatures promoting the use of green building standards. Sadly, we all know any meaningful legislation in Congress on global warming will be vetod by President Bush, so we must continue to make progress at the state level.

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