As policy makers in Washington D.C. continue working on the anticipated U.S. economic stimulus package, leading thinkers from all corners of the sustainability movement are building their cases for taking this historic opportunity to stimulate bright green change.
The visionary team at non-profit research organization Architecture 2030 has issued a plan for using stimulus funds to drive energy efficiency in the private building sector. Called the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan (PDF), it offers strategies for combining stimulus tools like mortgage relief as a means of softening the up-front cost of investing in energy efficiency upgrades for individual building and homeowners.
An official release from Architecture 2030 describes the strategy:
Their Plan, described as a simple, low-risk, equitable approach, will accomplish both objectives by providing a 'housing mortgage interest rate buy-down' and a 'commercial building accelerated-depreciation program' for buildings that meet the energy reduction targets of the widely adopted 2030 Challenge. The Challenge calls for new and existing buildings to meet energy consumption reduction targets, below an established benchmark, of 30%, 50%, 75% and carbon neutral.
The mortgage buy-down would allow a homeowner to reduce their mortgage rate if they renovate and improve the energy efficiency of their home to meet one of the 2030 Challenge targets. Greater energy reductions would earn lower interest rates. The investment in efficiency is low-risk since, with the cost of improvements factored in, the homeowner would save hundreds of dollars on a typical monthly mortgage, plus hundreds more in reduced energy bills.
In addition, the value of the home rises, the homeowner has more disposable income, the risk of mortgage failure has been reduced, the work for the upgrades has provided jobs to those who will pay federal taxes, material and product manufacturers have a new market, and the homeowner has dramatically reduced their energy consumption and carbon footprint.
The Plan calls for a total federal investment of $192.47 billion over two years. While the $192.47 billion federal investment will stimulate $1 trillion in non-federal building spending and investments, the actual total non-federal investment has the potential to be much higher since homeowners considering additional renovations (kitchen upgrade, new roof, building addition, etc.) will be more likely to renovate to take advantage of the reduced, one-time mortgage rates afforded under the Plan.
The cost of the federal investment is paid back each year through the new tax base created by the 9 million new jobs, as well as the increased economic activity. In addition, the Plan will save consumers $132 billion to $208 billion in energy costs and mortgage payments over a five-year period. The Plan addresses energy independence and climate change as well, reducing CO2 emissions by 504 Million Metric Tons and energy consumption by 6.47 Quadrillion Btu, including 1.95 trillion cu. ft. of natural gas and 90 million barrels of oil, over the same five-year period.
According to Architecture 2030 Executive Director Ed Mazria, "If the administration does not focus its stimulus plan on the private building sector, it will not only miss out on the substantial tax base created by the 9 million new jobs, $1 trillion dollars in new spending and new $1.8 trillion renovation market, it will have to continuously pour money into infrastructure projects because the tax base will not be there to support these projects on their own."
As the United States government gears up to make a historic investment designed to create jobs, stimulate spending, provide relief to citizens and otherwise re-start the stuck economy, America faces an unprecedented opportunity to invest in projects that will not only meet the short-term economic goals, but also lay the groundwork for a nation that is energy efficient, climate neutral, and prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. The solutions needed to achieve sustainability exist right now, and there has never been a better or more crucial time to put the pieces together. We applaud Architecture 2030 for presenting such a detailed plan for addressing multiple progressive objectives.
Read other stories about Architecture 2030 in the Worldchanging archives:
Photo: Catawba Valley Habitat for Humanity's Zero Energy House in the Ridgeview Neighborhood of Hickory, North Carolina. Photo credit: flickr/SareBear, Creative Commons license.
It will be very interesting to see what role green building will play both in the short-term and long-term when it comes to the economy. My client, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), has laid out suggestions for President-elect Obama's economic recovery package, and its Rebuild and Renew plan could create 1.6 million jobs for architects, designers, construction workers, etc. Check out the AIA's blog, The Angle (http://blog.aia.org/angle/) to learn more.