THERE HAS NEVER been a better time to build green. The passage of the American Recovery and reinvestment Act (ARRA) has appropriated billions of dollars to support green-building projects, as well as energy-efficiency and renewable-energy programs. In short, the federal government is investing in green economy.
"Government incentives are the primary reason for the expedited growth in green building, especially with the recent passage of the ARRA", says Kevin Haynes, senior research analyst at Raleigh, NC-based FMI Corp., publishers of the annual "US Markets Construction Overviews."
Green building sits at the nexus of several important initiatives improving the environment, introducing massive resource and utility savings, and creating new jobs. It is considered by many to be one of the tools that can help steer the U.S. out of its economic downturn.
The ARRA, signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17, is helping grow the practice of green building by funding federal energy-efficiency grants for local governments, home retrofits and low-income housing weatherization, as well as creating numerous tax incentives. The Act includes benefits for schools, federal buildings, housing, green-job training, transit energy and a host of programs related to federal agencies.
Approximately $9 billion is available to modernize, renovate and repair school buildings to meet recognized green-building standards, such as LEED from the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council, Green Building Institute and the Washington-based Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star. For example, upon executive order from the Ohio governor's office, the Columbus-based Ohio School Facilities Commission has administered funds for school renovations, and now nearly 140 Ohio schools are LRRD certified or have registered for certification.
"There is an amazing return on investment in greening existing public buildings, particularly schools," says Jason Hartke, director of advocacy and public policy at USGBC. "The program that institutes a focused plan for overcoming first costs and then use the utility and energy savings of green building to reflect savings over time have been the most successful."
Educational buildings aren't the only beneficiaries of the ARRA. The General Services Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, both based in Washington, have appropriated funds for green retrofits and new-construction projects for federal buildings, as well as residential housing and communities.
A number of federal tax incentives for home construction and retrofits also were extended through ARRA. For example, a $1,500 tax credit is available for homeowners that install a pre-painted metal roof system with an Energy Star Label from the EPA before Dec. 31, 2010.
"Installing a metal roof or metal wall system in a new or retrofit application can qualify for incentives for energy savings, added opportunities to install additional insulation, ventilation and create platforms for solar technologies and other renewable energy sources to be eligible for federal, state and local tax incentives," says Scott Kriner, president of Macungie, Pa.-based Green Metal Consulting and technical director of the Glenview, Ill.-based Metal Construction Association. "The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy,' online at www.DSIREusa.org provides up-to-the-minute updates of all incentives for builders using renewable energy."
Renewable energy has been and continues to be a source for tax breaks and other incentives. Installation of a metal roof with photovoltaic systems on a home can be eligible for a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the installed cost of any PV system installed before the end of 2016. Installing a metal roof with a solar hot water heating system on a home before the end of 2016 also can be eligible for a credit of up to 30 percent of the installed cost, but not to exceed $2,000.
Energy provisions remain one of the most well-funded parts of the ARRA-$16.8 billion has been provided for programs within the Washington-based Department of Energy, including the Weatherization Assistance Program, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, State Energy Program and Energy Star. Guaranteed loans of $6 billion have been reserved for renewable-energy and electric-transmission technologies.
"INSTALLING A METAL ROOF OR METAL WALL SYSTEM IN A NEW OR RETROFIT APPLICATION CAN QULIFY FOR INCENTIVES FOR ENERGY SAVINGS, ADDED OPPORTUNITIES TO INSTALL ADDITIONAL INSULATION, VENTILATION AND CREATE PLATFORMS FOR SOLAR TECHNOLOGIES AND OTHER RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR FEDERA, STATE AND LOCAL TAX INCENTIVES."
--SCOTT KRINER, GREEN METAL CONSULTING
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
These appropriations, combined with the numerous bonds, grants and tax credits available through ARRA, are paving the path to a greener U.S., despite the downtrodden economy. "The challenge with implementing green is paying for up-front costs," Hartke says. "The stimulus is helping overcome the barriers of financing first costs to do retrofits.
Awareness of the availability of these benefits is the first step to offsetting up-front costs. Tax credits are extended both to individuals, as well as to contractors, corporations and agencies. Bonds, such as Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds, and Economic Recovery Zone Bonds, also provide assistance. Treasury grants for energy investment and low -income housing offer additional encouragement. (Refer to "Green Incentives Resources" for links to more information about these and other funding and incentive programs.)
Another bill with the potential to further fuel the greening of the U.S .is the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), which was passed by the House of Representatives in late June and, at press time, had moved to the Senate for review. New initiatives would support retrofits, encourage consumer purchase of sustainable homes and provide incentives for using water-efficient products. You can monitor the status of this bill by visiting www.opencongress.org/bill111-h2454/show.
LOCALITIES LEAD THE MOVEMENT
If federal funds are the catalyst for nationwide green building, it's up to sate and local governments to distribute the money wisely. "Over the past six months, I've seen a lot of creative financing at the local level, which has been supported by federal funding", Hartke explains. "We're seeing that green-energy and green-building improvements can pay for themselves because of operational savings over time, and that's encouraged investments in these projects."
INSTALLATION OF A METAL ROOF WITH PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM ON A HOME CAN BE ELIGIBLE FOR A TAX CREDIT OF UP TO 30 PERCENT OF THE INSTALLED COST OF ANY PV SYSTEM INSTALLED BEFORE THE END OF 2016.
State and local governments encourage green building and energy efficiency by offering expedited permitting; tax credits, abatement, and reductions; LEED-certification incentives; and grants. States such as Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico and New York provide various tax incentives, abatement and reductions against property or personal and corporate income tax for buildings that meet green-building standards. The city of Cincinnati offers one of the most progressive tax-abatement incentives; 100 percent property tax exemption for properties with LEED certification.
Local programs also exist to help homeowners install PV systems, such as those installed on metal roofs. Berkeley FIRST is a solar financing program where property owners borrow money from the city to install photovoltaic systems, then pay it back throughout 20 years throughout 20 years through an annual special property tax. The amount of the tax is based on the cost of the PV system and the interest rate paid by the city. To read about the Berkeley FIRST program, go to www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=26580.
A plethora of other incentive programs exist in cities and towns across the U.S. Seattle provides incentives for improving energy, lighting and water efficiency, as well as for commercial projects that implement renewable energy (www.seattle.gov/dpd/greenbuilding) Sand Diego's Green Building Program includes incentives and rebates for resource, water, and energy conservation (www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/greenbuilding.html) New York City's Greener, Greater Buildings Plan (www.nyc.gov/planyc2030) includes a six-point plan to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings. "The most innovative movements in the industry right now are savings-related financing vehicles that have a focused plan for overcoming first costs," Hartke says.
Other local incentives include building density bonuses for projects earning LEED certification, grants, fast-track permitting and fee waivers, free expert consultation and technical assistance and low-interest loans. "Certain banks now are offering Energy Efficient Mortgages and Energy Improvement Mortgages. These mortgages are offered with discounts for homeowners or building owners who are taking measures to significantly reduce energy consumption." Kriner explains. "Higher loan amounts often are awarded when taking into account the estimated savings of the more energy-efficient structure. A cool metal roof or wall system can contribute to those energy savings."
With so many programs in place, and the potential passage of the ACES bill affecting the green landscape, creating an effective green-building strategy can seem over-whelming. Start by researching programs offered by your local government, then move on to state incentives and federal grants. The Internet perhaps is the most effective way to find the funds to get started. For more local examples, visit USGBC's public policies search page at www.usbg.org/publicpolicy/searchpublicpolicies.aspx?pageID=1776
"Buildings that use metal roofs or wall systems can qualify for many points under USGBC's LEED program", Kriner adds. "Metal's solar reflect properties, energy efficiency, durability, recycled content and full recyclability all contribute to more points in LEED, Green Globes and other building rating systems".
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