OPINION: Feds Can Promote Energy-Efficiency When Building New Facilities - Southern Maryland Headline News

OPINION: Feds Can Promote Energy-Efficiency When Building New Facilities


By Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t support energy conservation. From the cars we drive to the buildings in which we live and work, Marylanders want to save energy and protect the environment. I believe the federal government has an opportunity to be a leader in energy conservation by promoting energy efficiency in its new buildings.

I recently introduced The American Green Building Act, S.1165, which will require the federal government to construct all new buildings to be more energy efficient and in an environmentally sound way. While we need to enact a comprehensive, long-term energy policy, this bill is a step in the right direction.

The technology is now available to help us save energy when we construct new buildings or renovate existing ones. Buildings are big consumers of energy. In fact, buildings account for more than a third of all energy consumed in the United States. Buildings also account for 49% of our country’s sulfur dioxide emissions, 25% of nitrous oxide emissions and 10% of particulate emissions – all which damage our air quality. They also account for 38% of our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions – the chief pollutant that causes global warming.

Federal facilities are a large part of the problem. In 2002, energy used in federal buildings accounted for 38% of the total energy bill paid by the federal government—$3.73 billion.

My legislation would require that all new federal buildings follow the green building LEED (Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design) Silver standard set by the U.S. Green Building Council. These standards were created to promote sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selections and indoor environmental quality.

The average LEED-certified buildings in the United States uses 32% less electricity, 26% less natural gas and 36% less total energy. In aggregate, to date LEED-certified buildings reduce carbon dioxide by 150,000 metric tons, the equivalent of 30,000 passenger cars sitting idle for one year.

The General Services Administration or relevant agency can waive this requirement for national security reasons or if the building cannot meet the energy standards because of quantity of energy that is required.

Storm water runoff has been a major cause of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Since the 1990s, population growth in the Bay’s watershed has increased by 8%, yet the increase of impervious surfaces has grown by 42%. This bill requires that newly constructed buildings or major renovations plan more effectively for ways to deal with storm water runoff. We need to reduce the number of hardened surfaces such as roofs, parking lots or pavement that prevent rainfall from seeping into the ground.

We can achieve energy independence in a decade if we commit ourselves to that goal. We can become energy independent in a way that protects our environment and our national security.

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