Green Building News

Green Building News March 2009

March 2, 2009

Economic Stimulus Act Provides Billions for EERE Programs

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides $16.8 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. EERE received $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2008. The bulk of the new funding is supporting direct grants and rebates. Those that relate to the housing industry are highlighted below. The figures come from EERE.

$5 billion towards the Weatherization Assistance Program:

  • Increases the eligible income level under the program
  • Increases funding assistance level to $6,500 per home
  • Allows new weatherization assistance for homes that were weatherized as recently as 1994

$4 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to rehabilitate and retrofit public housing, including increasing the energy efficiency of units.

$300 million will support rebates for energy efficient appliances, while also supporting DOE's efforts under the Energy Star Program®.

$3.2 billion will go toward Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, which were established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but were not previously funded. The grants will go toward states, local governments and tribal governments to support the development of energy efficiency and conservation strategies and programs.

$3.1 billion to State Energy Program for additional grants that don't need to be matched with state funds, but the act only allows such grants for states that intend to adopt strict building energy codes and intend to provide utility incentives for energy efficiency measures.

$500 million to the Department of Labor to prepare workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Greater tax credits for clean energy projects at homes and businesses and for the manufacturers of clean energy technologies.

For homeowners:

  • Increases a 10 percent tax credit for energy efficiency improvements to a 30 percent tax credit
  • Eliminates caps for specific improvements (such as windows and furnaces), and instead establishes an aggregate cap of $1,500 for all improvements placed in service in 2009 and 2010 (except biomass systems, which must be placed in service after the act is enacted).
  • Tightens the energy efficiency requirements to meet current standards. For residential renewable energy systems, the act removes all caps on the tax credits, which equal 30 percent of the cost of qualified solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and fuel cell systems.
  • Eliminates a reduction in credits for installations with subsidized financing

For businesses:

  • A new 30 percent investment tax credit is available for projects that establish, re-equip, or expand manufacturing facilities for fuel cells, microturbines, renewable fuel refineries and blending facilities, energy saving technologies, smart grid technologies, and solar, wind and geothermal technologies. The credit also applies to the manufacture of plug-in electric vehicles and their electric components, such as battery packs, electric motors, generators and power control units. The credit may also be expanded in the future to include other energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

$4.5 billion to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to convert federal buildings into high-performance green buildings, which generally combine energy efficiency and renewable energy production to minimize the energy use of the buildings. The act also directs $4 million toward the establishment of an Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings within the GSA. In addition, the act provides $100 million for the Energy Conservation Investment Program within the Department of Defense, as well as another $100 million for energy conservation and alternative energy projects at facilities of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

National Green Building Standard ICC-700 Approved

The National Green Building Standard, known as ICC-700, was approved at the end of January as an American National Standard. The new Standard provides guidance for safe and sustainable building practices for residential construction, including both new and renovated single-family to high-rise residential buildings. This is the first and only green standard that is consistent and coordinated with the Code Council’s family of I-Codes and standards.

The International Code Council and National Association of Home Builders developed the Standard with broad input from several thousand stakeholders, ranging from code officials and other building professionals to the entire spectrum of the green building community. This new standard provides a practical route to green, sustainable and high-performance construction, especially in communities with little if any green/sustainable buildings or guidelines to build green. The standard also promotes homeowner education for the maintenance and operation of green residential buildings in order to ensure long-term benefits.

The standard’s rating system allows builders, designers and communities to choose the levels of high-performance green buildings that best suit their needs. Key provisions include:

  • Land conservation
  • Rainwater collection
  • Construction of smaller homes to conserve resources
  • Energy performance starting at 15 percent above the baseline requirements of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code
  • The use of low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) materials and detached garages or carports to improve indoor environmental quality
  • Homeowner education on proper maintenance and operation to maintain its green status throughout its life cycle

ICC-700 is available along with related ICC publications through the Code Council web site.

Training on ICC-700 already is available, including a special session March 23-26 at Codes Forum in New Orleans. Additional training is also available on related topics such as current green building practices and their relationship to the International Codes, overview of the LEED green building rating systems and developing green building ordinances to help governmental departments and agencies tasked with establishing sustainable building programs.

The Code Council is finalizing its Green Building Technologies Certification program for building officials, inspectors, planners, zoning personnel, mayors, city council members, developers and other interested parties. The exams will be available in March. These certifications will demonstrate the ability to understand the application of green building technology and assess adherence with green building programs.

In addition, the International Code Council Board has approved the creation of a Sustainable Building Technology Committee to support the Council’s many ongoing efforts in green, sustainable and safe construction.

A Code Council subsidiary, ICC-Evaluation Service, has developed the Sustainable Attributes Verification and Evaluation (SAVE) program to provide independent confirmation that evaluated building products are sustainable and may qualify for points under ICC-700 as well as major green rating systems such as LEED or Green Globes. A SAVE evaluation involves both inspection of the manufacturer’s production process and reviews of independent product testing, where required. Manufacturers that successfully complete the evaluation process receive a Verification of Attributes Report in one or more of nine key categories. Design professionals will be able to use the reports as evidence that products or systems they select qualify for points under those programs.

Another Code Council subsidiary, the International Accreditation Service (IAS), offers accreditation to testing laboratories, inspection agencies and product certifiers in several fields related to energy and sustainability to support manufacturers and regulators involved in green building development and approval. IAS also accredits curriculum developers and training agencies focused on green initiatives.

The International Code Council, a membership association dedicated to building safety and fire prevention, develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools. Most U.S. cities, counties and states choose the International Codes, building safety codes developed by the International Code Council.


USGBC Accepts GREENGUARD Children and Schools Certification as an Alternative Pathway for All Flooring

The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) announces that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has approved flooring certified to the GREENGUARD Children & Schools standard as an alternative pathway for achieving credit within the LEED® Rating System. This means that buildings seeking LEED certification will have an additional option for achieving credit—EQ 4.3: Flooring Systems—in regards to low-emitting flooring.

"We applaud GEI in providing a robust third-party certification program that encourages floor covering manufacturers to verify their products to be protective of building occupants' health and well being," said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and Founding Chairman of the USGBC. "This approval will increase the availability of qualified sustainable flooring products including hardwoods, bamboo, laminates, rubber, stone, ceramic, quartz, underlayment and other alternative flooring materials for LEED projects."

GEI's mission is to protect the indoor air quality of commercial building, homes, schools and healthcare facilities by qualifying construction materials and furnishings for their low, non-toxic emissions that could pollute the air we breathe. The Children & Schools standard, introduced in 2005, is the most stringent of GEI's standards and is designed to be protective of the youngest occupant.

Currently, more than 130 different manufacturers participate in the GREENGUARD Children & Schools Certification Program which requires extensive initial qualification followed by ongoing verification. All products must meet, as a minimum, the health-based criteria of CA 01350's chronic exposure levels including 13.5 parts per billion (ppb) formaldehyde.

"All products must meet this standard within 7 days of installation in a building," said Dr. Marilyn Black, Founder of GEI. "This assures building occupants, including remodelers, that low chemical emissions are quickly attained when new products are brought into indoor spaces."

Currently there are more than 10,000 flooring products certified to this standard and readily available.


Economic Woes Freeze the Remodeling Market

The residential remodeling market declined further during the final quarter of 2008, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). The current market conditions indicator slid to 27.7, from 33.5 in the previous quarter. Future expectations of remodeling work plummeted to 19.6, from 27.7 in the third quarter. Both these indices descended to historic lows since the start of the RMI in 2001.

The RMI measures remodeler perceptions of market demand for current and future residential remodeling projects. Any number over 50 indicates that the majority of remodelers view market conditions as improving. The RMI has been running below 50 since the final quarter of 2005, following decreasing remodeling expenditures since that time.

“During the last quarter many remodelers were asking if their phones were still working because they received virtually no calls for work,” said NAHB Remodelers Chairman Greg Miedema, CGR, CGB, CAPS, a remodeler from Tucson, Ariz. “The jobs we are getting are for smaller projects and necessary home maintenance.”

Nationally, market conditions for major additions and alterations shrank to 20.2 (from 29.4 in the third quarter), while minor additions and alterations conditions slowed to 33.5 (from 38.51). Maintenance and repair dropped to 27.6 from 30.9 in the previous quarter. Overall, major additions and other large remodeling jobs have experienced a greater decline than smaller remodels and maintenance.

“Remodelers suggest that the huge decline in consumer confidence, volatility of the stock market and uncertainty about the future of the economy have made homeowners delay remodeling decisions,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “These anxieties are causing consumers to wait and see if conditions improve before they are willing to commit to home improvement spending.”

All measures for future expectations in the remodeling market (calls for bids, amount of work committed for next three months, backlog of remodeling jobs and appointments for proposals) dropped. Current market expectations slipped in all regions during the fourth quarter, with the Northeast declining to 24.9 (from 32.9 in the third quarter), the South 30.7 (from 31.5), the Midwest to 28.0 (from 36.2), and the West to 25.0 (from 36.1).


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Check out the newest addition to our evolving series on choosing green building products.

Choosing Green Finish Materials: Countertops

Business of Renewable Energy - Apr. 16

Held in Portland, OR and presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council, this regional conference brings together industry participants to share their perspectives, with sessions addressing:

  • Economic outlook for renewable energy
  • Financing in challenging times
  • Siting and the local community
  • Energy and the net-zero building
  • Integrating renewable energy
  • Carbon Credits & RECs
  • Low carbon fuel standards
  • Feedstocks and geography
  • Next generation biofuels
  • Perspectives on government policy

Registration Information.


Gulf Coast Green 2009 - Apr. 16-19

A two-day green building symposium - Gulf Coast Green: Innovations in Building for Hot and Humid Climates - precedes the Sustainable Energy and Green Building Consumer Expo. Themes include green building, energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative transportation and Youth Green Zone.

Registration Information.

Kitchen Bath Industry Show & Conference 2009 - Apr. 30 - May 3

Held in Atlanta GA, this annual event features an extensive Conference Program and show of the latest products in the marketplace.

Registration Information.

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