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Institute Applauds Obama for Better Buildings Initiative

Wednesday, February 09, 2011  
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The National Institute of Building Sciences applauds the Obama Administration on the announcement of its Better Buildings Initiative.

"The Obama Administration has made a great effort to improve our nation's buildings and reach for high-performance,” said Institute President Henry L. Green, Hon. AIA. "The Better Buildings Initiative has the potential to transform our nation's building stock. This latest proposal builds on the Administration's investments in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the establishment of an innovation cluster to examine energy efficient building systems and technologies, and the Executive Order requiring federal agencies to incorporate high-performance principles.”

During last week's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for investment in innovation, infrastructure and a clean energy economy. On February 3, following on his call for action in the State of the Union speech, President Obama announced a plan to improve the energy efficiency of existing commercial buildings 20 percent by 2020.

The Institute, through its councils, projects and other activities, strongly supports the development of energy efficient, high-performance buildings. The Institute has a multi-faceted and coordinated program to support the advancement and delivery of high-performance buildings.

Some of the Institute's relevant activities include:

  • High-Performance Building Council: The High-Performance Building Council (HPBC) was established by Congress in 2005 to examine the many attributes of a high-performance building and assess current standards for the realization of high-performance buildings. Since the initial assessment report, the HPBC has continued to focus on the optimization of such attributes. Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Council has undertaken a project to identify criteria to produce a high-performance building envelope responsive to safety, security, energy efficiency, sustainability and other needs.
  • Consultative Council: The Consultative Council has identified six broad areas of interest across the building community where a coordinated effort can yield improvements. Relevant topic areas include: energy and water efficiency, existing buildings, education and training, sustainability, and codes and standards adoption and enforcement. The Council's report with recommendations in these areas will be released this spring.
  • Dialogue on Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Buildings: Late last year, the Institute organized a dialogue to bring together representatives from the finance, insurance and real estate communities with the design and construction communities. The dialogue focused on building understanding across the participating sectors and identifying opportunities for collaboration in identification of incentives for achieving high-performance buildings. Additional activities following the initial dialogue are planned.
  • National Weatherization Training Platform: Working with the Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, the Institute is developing a cutting-edge training program for weatherization and other building-related efficiency activities. The training provides virtual environments for students to learn key skills for improving the energy performance of buildings.
  • Building Information Modeling: Through its buildingSMART alliance, the Institute is facilitating the development of criteria crucial to the use of digital modeling and simulation to design, build and operate high-performing buildings. Implementing these technologies will assist in the efficient delivery of high-performance buildings and support the demonstration of results from energy saving measures.

The Better Buildings Initiative will require a combination of Congressional action and use of existing authorities for implementation. Key elements of the President's plan include:

  • New tax incentives for building efficiency: The President is calling on Congress to redesign the Commercial Building Tax Deduction, transforming the current deduction to a credit that is more generous and that will encourage building owners and real estate investment trusts (REITs) to retrofit their properties. These changes could result in a ten-fold increase in commercial retrofit take-up, leveraging job-creating investments.
  • More financing opportunities for commercial retrofits: Access to financing is an important barrier to increased retrofit investment in some market segments. To address these gaps, the Small Business Administration is encouraging existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote new energy efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses. The President's budget will also propose a new pilot program through the Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings.
  • "Race to Green” for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects: Much of the authority to alter codes, regulations and performance standards relating to commercial energy efficiency lies in the jurisdiction of states and localities. The President's budget will propose new competitive grants to states and/or local governments that streamline standards, encourage upgrades and attract private-sector investment.
  • The Better Buildings Challenge: The President is challenging CEOs and university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy, which will save money and improve productivity. Partners will commit to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient. They will in turn become eligible for benefits, including public recognition, technical assistance and best-practices sharing through a network of peers.
  • Training the next generation of commercial building technology workers: Using existing authorities, the Administration is currently working to implement a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy efficiency performance, launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the successful Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the Department of Commerce, and providing more workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations.

The National Institute of Building Sciences is available to assist the Administration with its Better Buildings Initiative and related efforts to advance the performance of the nation's buildings. For more information about the Institute's activities, visit www.nibs.org.


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