Let’s Not Try So That We Don’t Succeed

Two frustrating items came across my desk this morning.  The first is an attempt by two Ohio state senators (both Republicans) to pass a law (SRC25) prohibiting the use of LEED in all Ohio state buildings, including schools.  This despite the fact that Ohio already has 100+ LEED school buildings that are saving  tax payers tens of thousands of dollars on energy bills every year.  What’s the rationale for the new bill?  You can read the full text here, but essentially it claims that LEED v4 “fails to conform to recognized voluntary standard development procedures.”

Why is LEED, the largest and most successful green program in the world, being singled out?  This is really just a smokescreen for an attempt to protect certain industries and manufacturers from divulging the contents of their building materials, which is new under LEED v4.  The reason favoring disclosure is simple.  Some building materials have chemical components that seep out of the product and into the indoor environment, a process called off-gassing.  Without disclosure from manufacturers the architects and owners have no way of knowing what chemicals workers, students, patients, etc. are being exposed to.  With disclosure they can make better choices that minimize any possible effects on building occupants.  Some manufacturers have been very pro-active about reformulating their products to limit or eliminate off-gassing.  Apparently some have decided that ignorance (on the part of architects, owners, and occupants) is bliss (for the manufacturer).

The second news item concerns an amendment to a bill working its way through the U.S. Senate.  The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitive Act (ESICA), if passed, would be the first new energy efficiency related legislation passed in seven years.  The problem?  The “All-Of-The-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act of 2013” failed to pass last year, but is now part of ESICA.   It calls for the repeal of Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which mandates that the federal government eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy from new and renovated federal buildings by 2030. In other words, it would repeal the government’s commitment to the 2030 Challenge for carbon reduction.   The AIAs response can be found here.  Other organizations opposing the amendment include Architecture 2030 and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Not surprisingly, the sponsors of the amendment are from states where fossil fuel production is a major industry.  It’s true that the U.S has enormous reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas that can supply our energy needs for many years to come.  It’s also true that we’re changing the global environment by burning these fuels.  We can decide to wait until our reserves are used up before we entertain making a change.  However, in doing so, we are also deciding to allow Germany, Japan, South Korea, China etc. to develop the technologies that will power the future.  Alternatively, we can decide to lead the energy revolution by developing the technologies, and the markets for them, here at home.  Contact your senator and let him/her know which path you’d prefer to take.