Go green or Hulk smash! That wasn’t actually what Ed Norton, the latest actor to portray the green Goliath on the silver screen, said Wednesday while on Capitol Hill providing testimony to the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, but he did suggest that the federal government start a $5 billion fund to retrofit or construct better public housing that will meet new environmental standards.
Norton (a trustee for the Enterprise Foundation, an affordable-housing nonprofit founded by his grandfather) was joined by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom; Kent Peterson, president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); Michelle Moore, senior vice president of Policy and Market Development for the USGBC; and Tony Stall, vice president of marketing for EIFS manufacturer Dryvit Systems to appear before Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and the committee to discuss what role more efficient buildings and better building policies can play to help trim energy costs. The group also addressed potential solutions to cutting global warming pollution.
According to data provided by the committee, the building sector is responsible for 48% of all heat-trapping emissions, and it is estimated that 76% of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to operating buildings.
"Buildings are the single largest contributor to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, accounting for 39% of emissions in the U.S. Of those buildings, school buildings represent the largest construction sector in the country, and 20% of America goes to school every day," said Moore in a statement. "It’s fundamental to promote the design and construction of green schools, which play a tremendous role in bettering the health and performance of our students and children. Every new building coming out of the ground today should be built green and every existing building should be retrofitted, whether it is an office building, a school, or your own home. Buildings offer an immediate, measurable solution for mitigating climate change--and
we don’t have time to wait." ASHRAE’s Peterson was brought to the hearing to discuss his organization’s role in writing standards for adoption into building codes, according to a news release, and its work in developing guidance that goes beyond minimum requirements in building codes.
"Today’s buildings mortgage our energy and environmental future," Peterson said in the statement. "In the past, Standard 90.1 and other guidance from ASHRAE focused on minimum requirements to save energy. Recognizing that we must do more, ASHRAE is looking ahead to producing advanced energy design guidance, with the goal of net-zero-energy buildings. We welcome the opportunity to stress the need for a more energy efficient future before the House Committee."
Newsom suggested that policymakers focus on the reauthorization of the renewable energy tax credit. "As we face the crisis of climate change, it’s the absolutely least we can do," Newsom explained. "In cities with green building requirements, this financial incentive allows buildings to achieve required green standards through installation of renewable energy systems. This investment in renewable energy systems—one of the most important elements of green building—decreases a building’s energy requirements and costs, lessen a city’s energy needs, and ultimately increases our country’s energy independence."
The San Francisco mayor also suggested that lawmakers consider shifting the tax burdens of Americans from taxing jobs to taxing pollution. "It’s remarkable to me that we tax something we want to encourage—jobs and income—and place no tax on what we all agree we want to minimize—greenhouse gas pollution," he noted.
San Francisco has been one of the pioneers in creating green legislation. In 1999, the city enacted a law that required all city buildings to be USGBC LEED certified. In 2004 the law was upgraded to require LEED-Silver certification. The city also has provided fast-track permits for developers who build green. "Addressing the climate crisis requires fundamental, visionary policy transformation," Newsom said. "Anything less and we will fall short of the environmental leadership that the climate crisis demands of us."