According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, the building sector accounts for 39 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, more than both the transportation and industry sectors. The same study found that buildings are responsible for 71 percent of U.S. electricity consumption; they alone account for almost 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.
Requiring significant energy reduction targets in new and majorly renovated federal buildings demonstrates to the private sector that the federal government is leading by example. It is helping spur the development of new materials, construction techniques, and technologies to make buildings more energy efficient. And it is showing that significant energy reductions are both practical and cost-effective.
However, proposals being advocated by special interests would stifle this progress by preventing the Department of Energy from implementing a provision from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That provision, known as Section 433, requires that federal buildings be designed to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Stakeholders from varying industries have been working with DOE to implement this rule in a way that is smart, efficient, and effective.
Some have argued that these requirements are not achievable. The facts tell a different story. Building professionals are already succeeding in making federal facilities meet sustainability targets, including the retrofit of the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building in Grand Junction, Colo., which will be the federal government’s first site net-zero energy building on the National Register of Historic Places. The result is better energy performance for federal agencies and lower overall costs for taxpayers. More importantly, private sector owners are increasingly adopting these technologies and strategies for their buildings.
Despite these facts, opponents of the provision claim that it actually is bad for our energy policy and want to throw it away. Such a move would dramatically harm the federal government’s ability to design and build facilities that use less energy, save taxpayers money, and protect the environment. That’s why not only architects, but more than 300 other groups oppose efforts to weaken these energy-saving policies.
Jacob is president of the American Institute of Architects.