USGBC Commercial Real Estate Update

Green Building and a Climate Regulated Future

The beginning of the new year marks the passing of a decade when significant attention has been paid to sustainability and the environment worldwide. As the United States continues to work with international leaders after the conclusion of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, it marks the latest in a flurry of environmental activity that took place in 2009. With the U.S. House of Representatives passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, passage of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) endangerment finding on emissions, which supports reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the debate around the environment, and in particular climate change, appears to be reaching a fever pitch. In tandem, talks of environmental technologies and movements have become ever more pervasive.

Companies from across the country and globe are stepping up to be part of the solution by voluntarily reducing their energy use and emissions. Recently, businesses have begun to form independent coalitions in favor of efforts to mitigate climate change. One group consisting of approximately 25 corporate members, including heavy emitters such as auto companies, as well as large firms like Siemens and General Electric, is US-CAP. By voluntarily changing business practices and shifting to a more environmentally sustainable business model, corporations are able to take more time in implementing changes and are learning how to operate in a sustainable manner today. There also continues to be ample opportunity for even greater economic returns – a recent McKinsey report found that an investment of $520 billion today in existing building energy retrofits could yield an energy savings of $1.2 trillion by the year 2020.

In uncertain times, green building continues to show itself as a versatile solution to many of our challenges, both financial and environmental. As the landscape in which businesses must operate rapidly evolves, green building and the LEED rating systems continue to offer an environmentally responsible means of building and operating high-end, healthy, and efficient buildings, guarding against erratic energy prices and the impacts of environmental legislation and regulation.

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