Tag Archives: energy efficiency

The Silliest Sequester: Pumping the Brakes on Green Building Programs that Save Taxpayer Dollars

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Photo credit: iStockphoto

I’m not an economist, but if I am trying to save money, I don’t stop depositing money into my savings account.

I’m not a CEO, but if I had a division of a business that was turning a profit with every dollar invested, I would probably look at ways to increase investment, not reduce it.

But the coming sequester will make arbitrary across-the-board cuts in government program budgets, including extremely successful programs that pay for themselves in energy efficiency and green building. That’s not a very effective way to reduce government spending.

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Hospital Energy Efficiency Gets Some Help From Capitol Hill

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If you were asked to visualize your ideal place for healing from illness or injury, what comes to mind? A peaceful, bright space with lots of daylight? Beautiful views of nature or access to the outdoors? Plenty of roomfor visiting family and friends? A comfortable setting where you aren’t too hot or too cold?

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The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market

Nils Kok
Visiting Scholar
University of California, Berkeley

When shopping for a new car, one of the most prominent features on display is the miles-per-gallon (MPG) usage of the vehicle. There is an EnergyGuide label for dishwashers, clothes washers and other appliances, and an Energy Star label for the most efficient appliances. But when buying a home, there is usually no information on its energy efficiency — which is strange, considering the substantial impact that monthly expenditures on electricity, gas and water have on disposable income. For many people, energy is the single largest monthly expense after mortgage or rental payments.

Photo credit: Zeck Butler Architects

The recent surge in the labeling of more efficient, “green” homes should therefore be good news for people who want to make a more informed decision when purchasing a new home. In Europe, an energy label for homes has been in place for some years now, providing prospective homebuyers with a simple assessment on the energy efficiency of a dwelling. Consumers seem to value this type of information: a large-scale study on the effect of energy labels on the selling prices of homes in the Netherlands shows a price premium for more efficient homes.

Now there is comparable evidence for the U.S.

In a study released last week, Matthew Kahn and I look at sales transactions of 1.6 million homes in California to investigate the price implications of three “green” labels: LEED for Homes, Energy Star and GreenPoint Rated. We find statistical evidence that, holding other factors constant, a green label on a single-family home in California provides a market premium of 9 percent compared to a similar home without the label. It is important to note that this premium is just an average, and there is some variation in the estimate. In addition, we find that the price premium is influenced by local climate — a green home is worth more in hotter areas where cooling is more important, and thus energy efficiency is more valuable. We also find that environmental ideology influences the willingness to pay for green homes. In areas with more hybrid vehicle registrations (which presumably reflects a higher degree of environmental consciousness), the premium paid for a green home is higher.

The bottom line: Green labels, or the characteristics these labels reflect (energy savings, water savings, higher comfort, etc.) are valued by homebuyers.


This finding is comparable to evidence on the financial implications of LEED and Energy Star labels as documented for the commercial sector, and it provides important information for developers who still wonder about the marketability of more efficient homes. A question that remains is whether displaying information on non-efficient homes could further consumers’ understanding of the energy efficiency of their (prospective) homes, thereby reducing the information asymmetry that is currently present in the residential housing market. But for now, green labels seem to do a good job in informing the market. For consumers who upgrade their home, getting a label might not be a bad idea!

The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market

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Photo credit: Zeck Butler Architects
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When shopping for a new car, one of the most prominent features on display is the miles-per-gallon (MPG) usage of the vehicle. There is an EnergyGuide label for dishwashers, clothes washers and other appliances, and an Energy Star label for the most efficient appliances. But when buying a home, there is usually no information on its energy efficiency — which is strange, considering the substantial impact that monthly expenditures on electricity, gas and water have on disposable income.

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A Renewed Commitment to Buildings and their Social Benefits

Maggie Comstock
Policy Analyst
U.S. Green Building Council

As the dust settles from Rio+20, I finally have a moment to reflect upon the outcomes of the historic Earth Summit Conference. The non-committal nature of the Rio text was a surprise to no one, yet the identification of buildings as an important strategy for the development of sustainable cities and urban infrastructure was still a “win” for the green building movement. Energy efficiency was also recognized as a strategy for combating climate change within both the developed and developing world. Our leaders’ acknowledgement of the role of the buildings sector in sustainable development is a testament to the benefits of green building that go beyond protecting the environment, as outlined in the United Nations Environment Programme Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative’s new report, "Building Design and Construction: Forging Resource Efficiency and Sustainable Development."

Snapped on USGBC's trip to the Rio+20 conference. 
As the world’s population rapidly urbanizes, we need to address future development and construction. Picture this: In order to accommodate the expected increase in urban population of two billion people before 2030, we would need to construct 200 new cities larger than Paris! Our planet cannot accommodate such development, especially if done conventionally. Clearly the decisions that we make today are crucial to ensuring the future health of our planet as cities put more pressure on our finite resources.

Green buildings not only address the development requirements of future urbanization, but also serve important social and economic needs of these populations. For example, the International Labour Organization estimates that the construction sector employs 111 million people globally; and as green buildings increase their share of the market, they also provide stable employment for millions and boost local economies around the world. Green schools and affordable housing programs help spread the social benefits of green buildings to a wider audience, promoting education and health.

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Finally, the report outlines the role of cities in driving green building construction and sustainability. Sub-national governments are taking the lead on urban sustainability as national governments are slower to implement progressive policies. As building design and construction have acute benefits for local populations, cities are often best suited to implement these policies.

The UNEP-SBCI report helps builds the broader case for green building throughout the world as more than an environmental movement, but also a social and economic one, which appropriately aligns with the themes of Rio+20—economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental protection.

Senate Efficiency Champions Advance Elements of Recent USGBC Report

As members of the House and Senate tax writing committees continue to negotiate over the extension payroll tax cut and other tax incentives, six senators of the Senate Finance Committee, spearheaded by Olympia Snowe (ME) and Jeff Bingaman (NM) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Acting Director Department of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Jeffrey Zients urging them to advance policies to improve energy efficiency and continue to support clean energy incentives.

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Energy Efficiency in the States in 2012: Will You Help Your State Compete for Top Rank?

If you've ever wondered if government policy and advocacy can actually make a difference, consider this: Despite what you may often read in the papers, state governments are plowing ahead on making energy efficiency a reality. And as USGBC mentioned in a recent report, all states are doing something. That just doesn't happen if no one is fighting for it.

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President Obama Announces $25 Billion For Improving Schools

Last night, President Obama made a monumental announcement – his proposed American Jobs Act will provide $25 billion for school construction and modernize over 35,000 school buildings. If this bill is passed, it would not only put thousands of teachers back to work, it would allow us to make desperately needed improvements in schools across the country, including energy-efficiency upgrades and comprehensive, green retrofits.

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