Green Building News

Green Building News June 2008

June 2, 2008

The "Invisible" U.S. Energy Efficiency Boom

It's the U.S. energy boom that no one knows about. Energy efficiency may be the farthest-reaching, least-polluting, and fastest-growing energy success story of the last 50 years. But it also is the most invisible, the least understood, and in serious danger of missing out on needed future investments. In the first attempt to quantify the overall impact of the hidden U.S. energy efficiency boom, a major new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) shows that U.S. energy consumption (as measured per dollar of economic output) will have been slashed by the end of 2008 to half of what it was in 1970, from 18,000 Btus to about 8,900 Btus.

However, the ACEEE report, The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture, concludes that "…our nation is not aware of the role that energy efficiency has played in satisfying our growing energy-service demands…the contributions of efficiency often go unrecognized. The contributions of energy efficiency often remain invisible..." The report also notes that although efficiency is a proven resource, it remains underdeveloped. "In short, the evidence suggests that efficiency can make an even larger contribution towards stabilizing energy prices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – should we choose to fully develop it."

The ACEEE report was prepared with major support from the Civil Society Institute (CSI). Additional support was provided by the Kendall Foundation and the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association.

Key report findings include:

  • Given the right choices and investments in the many cost-effective but underutilized energy efficiency technologies, the United States can cost-effectively reduce energy consumption by an additional 25-30 percent or more over the course of the next 20-25 years.
  • Annual investments in energy efficiency technologies currently support 1.6 million U.S. jobs. The $300 billion invested in energy efficiency in 2004 was three times the amount invested in traditional energy infrastructure.
  • Investments in energy efficiency technologies are estimated to have generated approximately 1.7 quads of energy savings in 2004 alone – roughly the equivalent of the energy required to operate 40 mid-sized coal-fired or nuclear power plants.
  • Since 1970, energy efficiency has met about three-fourths of the demand for new energy-related services while conventional energy supply has covered only one-fourth of this demand.
  • Total investments in more energy efficiency technologies could increase the annual energy efficiency market by nearly $400 billion by 2030, resulting in an annual efficiency market of more than $700 billion – and total additional investments over the period 2008-2030 of nearly $7 trillion.

ACEEE Director of Economic Analysis John A. "Skip" Laitner, co-author of the new report, said: "The greatest American success story in dealing with energy in recent decades is also the least understood and the most invisible. This report shows that energy efficiency is among the most cost-effective solutions available to consumers, businesses, policymakers and investors. Energy efficiency has made great strides, but we need to look at picking up the pace. The energy-related challenges of the 21st century require a dramatic shift in direction – from an emphasis on energy supply to an emphasis on energy efficiency."

Lloyd Jeff Dumas, Professor of Political Economy, Economics and Public Policy at The University of Texas at Dallas, and chair, Civil Society Institute Working Group on the Economy and Global Warming, said: "In effect, energy efficiency is buying the time that America needs to develop new clean energy sources that will reduce the greenhouse gases linked to global warming. This study sends a powerful message that members of the public, elected officials and corporations need to squeeze out even more of the potential of energy efficiency as part of a comprehensive energy strategy that looks to our future, rather than the past."

Green Premium Revealed in Seattle Study

New analysis shows “green” homes may be a bright spot in today’s real estate market. Environmentally certified homes sold for 5.9 percent more and stayed on the market for 24 percent less time than comparable homes sold last year.

In the first year since it began tracking environmentally certified homes, 19.8 percent of new homes in Seattle sold on the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) were environmentally certified. These homes averaged 1,477 square feet, just slightly smaller than the 1,492 square foot average for all new homes sold. On a square foot basis, this means green homes sold for a 5.9 percent premium. Green homes certified by a third party sold for a 10.5 percent premium on a square foot basis.

“In today’s changing market, this is an important finding for homeowners to consider,” noted Ben Kaufman, founder of GreenWorks Realty. He added, “environmentally certified homes offer homeowners a way to get the most value and sell more quickly.”

Environmentally certified homes include those certified by Built Green™, Energy Star™ or LEED for Homes™. From September 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008, 168 environmentally certified single family new homes were sold in the City of Seattle out of a total of 848 new homes sold. 285 environmentally certified single family homes were sold in King County out of 2109 new homes sold.

“Until now, the idea that people are willing to pay more for environmentally certified housing has been mostly based on anecdotes,” said Aaron Adelstein, Executive Director of Built Green. “Now we have the first hard data to back up what many of us have believed for a long time – green sells for more."

Kaufman noted, “When buying homes, it seems buyers understand the benefits of green homes – from lower energy bills to healthier indoor air.” Kaufman initiated the effort to include environmental certification checkboxes in the NWMLS.

“These new figures will help appraisers, homeowners and real estate agents understand what buyers are willing to pay for an environmentally certified home,” added Kaufman.

See related article: Oregon's Regional Multiple Listing Service Launches New Measure to Connect Realtors and Buyers Looking for ‘Green’ Homes


Calvert Ranks Top Builders on Environmental and Sustainable Practices

According to a new study by Calvert, with support from the Boston College Institute for Responsible Investment, none of America’s 13 largest publicly traded homebuilders has “fully embraced the emerging market of sustainable building design and construction.”

Entitled Greener Pastures for America’s Homebuilders? A Survey of Sustainable Practices by the Homebuilding Industry, the Calvert report concludes: “Our survey of the 13 largest publicly traded U.S. homebuilders finds that, while every major homebuilder has incorporated some environmental and efficiency programs and products into some of their new homes, none has fully embraced the emerging market of sustainable building design and construction. Calvert’s study of the sustainable policies, programs and performance of the nation’s largest homebuilders revealed that the industry has a long way to go before any of the companies can truly claim to be addressing the risks and opportunities inherent in the environmental and climate change dilemmas.”

Commenting on the report, Stu Dalheim, Director, Shareholder Advocacy, Calvert Group, said: “This is a real and growing issue for homebuyers and for investors. As consumers become more educated about environmental options and green residential construction, and as regulators increase incentives for green development and restrict conventional development efforts, some homebuilders may be at a competitive disadvantage if they have not integrated sustainable design and construction principles into their construction. In the green building market there is a first-mover advantage: Companies that make a concerted national effort to integrate sustainability into project sites, construction materials and construction processes, as well as to provide energy, water and habitat conservation options in finished products, will be able to build a brand image as the environmental choice for home construction. This brand will help environmentally conscious consumers make their selection of a homebuilder.”

Other Key Findings:

  • “Many of the companies had strong regional programs for environmental responsibility. However, while some of these programs have had significant results (Pulte and KB each has built over 15,000 ENERGY STAR ® homes), the major builders offer few of these environmental options nationwide.”
  • Many publicly traded homebuilders have committed to ambitious goals in energy efficiency, suggesting that major homebuilders’ attitudes towards green building might be changing. In fact, 12 of the 13 largest homebuilders have now committed to building 100 percent Energy Star homes in certain markets. However, as of the publication of this report, no major homebuilder has publicly committed to environmental responsibility as a core business strategy.
  • The lowest-ranked builders “make virtually no mention of the environment on their Web sites or in other reports and have few programs to mitigate their environmental impacts. Not surprisingly, they lag behind the rest of the field in developing green homes. They are not very involved in the Building America program, are near the bottom in Energy Star, and have not been engaged in other green building efforts. These companies may score lower because they are simply not public with their environmental goals or neglect to report their environmental successes.”

The survey of the 13 largest publicly traded U.S. homebuilders used four major “green” indicators: energy use, building-material use, water use and land use.

As an investor, Calvert seeks to discern how major U.S. homebuilders compare on policies, programs and performance relating to the environment and resource efficiency. Despite the slump in the overall housing market, the green building industry is seeing annual growth of as much as 30 percent.

Apply Now for 2009 EnergyValue Housing Award

The NAHB Research Center has announced the start of the application period for the 2009 EnergyValue Housing Award (EVHA) program. The EVHA honors home builders who voluntarily integrate energy efficiency into the design, construction and marketing of new homes, while providing educational opportunities and challenging builders to elevate standards for energy-efficient construction.

In addition to the business benefits associated with winning the EVHA, one of the most beneficial aspects of the application process is access to the panel of energy-efficiency experts who judge the program each year. EVHA winners have also realized a number of marketing advantages as a result of their participation.

The EVHA ceremony will be held during the 2009 International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Awards will be presented in the affordable, custom, factory-built, production, and multifamily categories for hot, moderate and cold climate regions. Entries are evaluated based on the homes’ energy value, design, construction methods and processes, marketing and customer relations efforts and participation in voluntary energy programs.

All professional U.S. home builders whose primary occupation is constructing homes and/or developing real estate are eligible for participation. Though previous winning projects are ineligible, previous winners may submit new or different projects for consideration. Homes offered for consideration must have been completed after January 2006 and before application submittal. The official EVHA application must be postmarked by July 11, 2008. Companies may submit only one application per category, for a maximum of up to five applications.

PV Powered Announces Shipment of New 100kW and 75kW Commercial Solar Inverters

PV Powered, leader in high-reliability solar inverter technology, announced the first production shipments and in-stock availability of their newest commercial solar inverters. The PVP 100kW and PVP75kW have recalibrated industry expectations for service life and overall cost of ownership by offering a 20-plus year design life, best-in-class 96 percent efficiency and a variety of features that make the products more reliable and easier to install and maintain.

Solar installers will benefit from the widest operating voltage range (295 – 600 volts), providing exceptional stringing options. An ultra-clean layout with a front access design offers load-rated AC & DC disconnects, bottom, top and side cable entry options, generous cable bending area, oversized cable landings, exterior mounting flanges for fast and easy anchoring and a complete range of fused DC sub-combiner options, providing improved ease of installation.

“The unprecedented reliability and innovative features of these products mean lower lifetime cost, higher uptime and increased energy harvest,” said Gregg Patterson, PV Powered CEO. “These tangible benefits significantly increase the system owner’s long-term return on investment. With an industry-leading 10-year standard warranty and the only available 10-year extended warranty, PV Powered has fundamentally changed the economics of solar power systems for all stakeholders.”


Oikos Library

Check out three new additions to our Library:

Keeping Solar Simple

Squeeze More Light From Windows

Solar Site Design


Carbon Counting 2008 - July 14-15

Emissions Accounting, Risk Management & Carbon Investing

Held in Chicago, this conference is designed for executives and decision makers from large and medium size companies including: environmental and risk managers, accountants, engineers, attorneys, energy and carbon traders, presidents, CEOs, CFOs, CECOs, environmental consultants and climate control consultants.

Topics include:

  • How to Build Your Carbon Footprint
  • Current & Future Reporting Requirements
  • Results of the Supply Chain Leadership Coalition and Carbon Disclosure Project Pilot Program
  • Risk Management Strategies for GHG Emissions
  • Carbon Investing in Today's Marketplace

Register online

Green Real Estate 2008 - July 16-17

EcoBroker® Annual Conference & Expo with the Association of Energy & Environmental Real Estate Professionals

Two-day conference and expo at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. National speakers, business building tracks to help maximize utilization of green real estate tools and resources and a green products expo.

Annual Alaska Building Science Network Summer Conference 2008 - July 24, 25, 26

Located at the AVTEC Auditorium in Seward, Alaska, this years Conference theme is Weatherization & Energy Retrofits. Speakers include Bruce Manclark, Linda Wigington, John Davies, Cal Steiner, Betsy Pettit (invited), Terry Brennan, and Barbara Miller (invited), AHFC (invited).

Topics include:

  • Weatherization Program Development-What Makes a Good Weatherization Program
  • Running Weatherization Crews
  • Weatherization& Pressure Diagnostics
  • HVAC-Sealing & Fixing Duct Systems
  • IAQ Considerations in Wxn
  • Cold Climate Housing Research Center Update
  • Alaska’s Statewide Energy Efficiency Plan Update
  • Beyond Business as Usual-Deep Energy Reductions of Existing Homes


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