This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 18, 2009

AIA Report Notes Surge in Green Building Programs

Photo of a large, modern office building with some rolling foothills in the background.

DOE is a leader in green building. The Science & Technology Facility at its National Renewable Energy Laboratory was the first federal laboratory to earn the platinum LEED certification, the highest from the group that benchmarks energy efficiency in buildings. Enlarge this image.
Credit: Pat Corkery

The number of U.S. cities with green building programs has increased 50% in two years, according to a survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Green buildings generally include energy-efficient designs and other sustainable features. Among the findings from AIA, 138 cities have green building programs, compared with 92 cities in 2007, and 24 of the 25 most populated metropolitan regions are built around cities with a green building policy. The new report, "Green Building Policy in a Changing Economic Environment," is an inventory of policies and best practices intended to help policymakers advance a more sustainable legislative agenda for growth and development. The report also notes that DOE's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is providing "an unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of green building and sustainability efforts in our nation's cities." The AIA has stated a goal of making all building designs carbon neutral by 2030. See the AIA press release and report.

The rise in green building programs is also reflected in the continued construction of Energy Star-qualified homes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on November 11 that the program had surpassed one million Energy Star-qualified homes since EPA and DOE began labeling new homes in 1995 under their joint effort. Topping the list with the most Energy Star homes are Houston, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; and the greater Los Angeles area in California. There are more than 6,500 builders across the nation constructing homes that earn the Energy Star label, and qualified new homes can be found in every state in the country.

To earn the Energy Star label, a home must meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by DOE and EPA. Those include effective insulation systems, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment, and high-efficiency lighting and appliances. In addition, an independent home energy rater conducts onsite testing and inspections to verify that the home's performance meets Energy Star requirements. This year alone, families living in Energy Star-qualified homes will save more than $270 million on their utility bills, while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from about 370,000 vehicles. See the EPA press release and the Energy Star Web site.