Yesterday was a very exciting day for me and 50 other green building advocates as we visited the Pennsylvania State Capitol to promote green buildings and schools. It just so happened to be the very same day that an important bill was going before the house for a vote, House Bill 193 – High-Performance, State Buildings Standards Act. This bill would effectively mandate that state buildings over 10,000 square feet must be designed and built to meet high energy performance criteria and certified by a 3rd party. This bill would inevitably reduce the amount of energy usage, resource depletion and environmental impact of the state and its buildings.
Update: HB 193 passed in the House of Representatives on a vote of 170 – 18.
As a group, we had over 20 appointments with state legislators to educate them on the benefits of high performance green buildings and discuss upcoming legislature. We also had students, teachers and administrators from local green schools come along for the ride. They were able to give first hand accounts of what it’s like to work and learn in a green building environment.
A Summary of Key Green Building Initiatives and Legislation at The State Level:
State Government must lead the way towards energy efficiency and sustainability in the built environment. We spend 80-90% of our time indoors and in buildings. Maintaining the highest quality possible in our built environment positively impacts the environment, our economy, and the health and productivity of our people. Combined, building construction and operationsare the largestenergy consumersin the United States and the largest source of landfill waste. Reducing these impacts will preserve our natural resources and protect the environment. HB 193 and SB 1136 will set modest standards for building construction on certain State-owned construction projects.
These bills will:
- Reduce annual operating costs compared to conventional buildings;
- Support Pennsylvania’s economy by increasing the market for green building products made in Pennsylvania;
- Provide healthier and more productive work environments for Commonwealth employees;
- Reduce the environmental impacts of building construction and operation on the environment in terms of energy, air quality, water and waste.
#2 Introducing PACE: Property Assessed Clean Energy HB 1667(Galloway)
PACE is a local government initiative that allows property owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for their homes and commercial buildings through an assessment on their property taxes for up to 20 years.
- PACE financing is not a government subsidy
- Participation in PACE is voluntary and property owners opt in to the program
- Currently, 27 different states have some form of PACE legislation
- Long-term financing (up to 20 years) eliminates the two greatest impediments to energy efficiency improvements: upfront costs and transferability.
#3 Support of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Pathways to Green Schools initiative
In late October, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced that it would participate in the pilot year of Green Ribbon Schools. The program, created by the U.S. Department of Education, recognizes schools that will have achieved or made considerable progress toward energy efficient buildings, healthy students and school environment, and the environmental literacy of all graduates.On average, 20% of Americans go to school every day and spend 30% of their waking hours in schools. Greening schools is one of the most immediate and cost-effective ways to provide healthier environments for children, save and reinvest public funds in every community in our region, and create the next generation of sustainability advocates. Green schools save an average of $100,000 per year, enough to hire a teacher, or purchase many more books or pieces of computer equipment.
USGBC Central Pennsylvania, Delaware Valley Green Building Council and Green Building Alliance (Pittsburgh) worked as a team to set up displays and hand out educational materials to lawmakers from across the state. The overall effect of the day was a resounding positive experience for those that were in attendance and a great outcome in the passing of House Bill 193. Thanks to all that were able to help and to those that support green building nationwide.