What is the Better Buildings Initiative?

Thu, 2011-02-03 18:05

Earlier today I participated in a White House conference call that provides more details about the President’s newly announced Better Buildings Initiative. This is a pretty exciting program directly tied to innovation, clean energy, energy efficiency, and jobs. Overall, the administration wants this to be a private sector success and not just a government program. The new initiatives focus on leveraging private sector commitments and innovation which will maximize the government’s investments and minimize the direct cost (which is very important these days with the focus on the Federal deficit).

So what does the Better Buildings Initiative mean for you? There seem to be a few key facets of this “Investment in America” focus.

  1. Part one is a “massive” (I am using the quotes to highlight wording directly from the White House) investment in workforce skills. Based on the questions from the conference call attendees this will be focused on innovative building products and commercial energy efficiency. The key to success will be tying training into relevant market opportunities and jobs!
  2. Part two is the reintroduction of Home Star, the federal residential energy efficiency program, as part of the federal budget. This is a multi-billion dollar program that incentivizes home owners to invest in their home’s energy efficiency. The Home Star program also calls for improving the contracting community’s quality of work (which is an important part of energy efficiency) through mandatory training and certifications under programs like BPI Building Analyst.
  3. Part three is a grab bag of initiatives focused on commercial energy efficiency with a goal of a 20% reduction by 2020. One of those programs is a competitive grant awards that will incentivize municipalities to upgrade, streamline, and simplify their local building codes. Another initiative is to change the 179D commercial tax deduction for energy efficiency into a tax credit and to expand it to include non-profits (I am not sure how that works). A third initiative involves encouraging private sector loans to commercial properties for energy retrofits. We will publish more about this grab bag of initiatives as the details become available.

The bottom line of this initiative is that anyone involved in the building industry (contractors, manufacturers, facility managers, home owners, entrepreneurs) will benefit from intense government focus on growing the energy efficiency industry. For me, I am very impressed with the approach which puts the government in a supporting role. I am hopeful that we will continue to see a sustainable clean energy and energy efficiency industry develop.

Stay tuned for updates and please feel free to share any details with comments below or on our Facebook page.

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