As part of the Obama Administration's efforts to improve commercial building efficiency 20% by 2020, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a new partnership that will work to ensure that appraisers nationwide have the information, practical guidelines, and professional resources they need to evaluate energy performance when conducting commercial building appraisals.

In conjunction with the Washington, DC-based Appraisal Foundation, the Department of Energy (DOE) will develop information and educational tools relating to valuing green buildings based on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, the generally accepted standards for U.S. building appraisers. These tools and resources will help appraisers appropriately include energy performance and sustainability in valuations.

While the agreement is for commercial buildings, over time the foundation also will consider the need for green home guidance, according to Paula Douglas Seidel, Appraisal Foundation executive administrator.

Under the partnership, the DOE will develop educational materials and create a database to provide commercial appraisers with energy-savings data, federal green building programs and policies, and additional information on energy performance. Last year, commercial buildings accounted for about 20% of all the energy used in the United States.

The public-private partnership is a good step in the right direction in the painfully slow process of advocating for energy-conscious appraising and lending practices, says David Porter, owner of the Stanwood, Wash., consulting firm PorterWorks, which offers a Green Specialist training program for appraisers, lenders, and insurance professionals nationwide. Nevertheless, there is still much more work to be done before green buildings are fully valued by lenders and appraisers.

“Ultimately we need state appraisal boards to require training on green and energy efficiency before an appraiser can accept an assignment for such a property,” he says.

Finally, Porter is looking forward to the day when energy-efficient residential projects receive full recognition and value from the lending community, especially retrofits. “Out of 128 million homes in the U.S. we have 95 million that are in need of some energy efficiency improvements,” he adds.