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To Efficiency and Beyond.

Lawmakers have caught a bit of Buzz Lightyear's enthusiasm when it comes to buildings and energy efficiency.

But instead of going beyond infinity, like Buzz, they want builders to go "beyond code"--that is, beyond traditional energy code requirements for buildings. The policies they're considering incorporate established green-building rating systems: the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known as LEED; the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star; or net-zero energy requirements.

It takes a lot of energy to power buildings. Residential, government and commercial structures accounted for 39 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

This power doesn't come cheap. The electricity required to light commercial buildings amounts to more than $35 billion a year, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates. That's before adding the costs of maintaining comfortable temperatures, heating water or powering appliances, computers and office equipment. Lowering building energy use not only decreases operating costs, but also reduces air emissions and strain on the electric grid.

Lawmakers address building energy use through state commercial and residential building energy codes, which have been adopted in most states and the District of Columbia. By updating or strengthening their codes, states can help building owners and renters realize the economic and comfort benefits of increased efficiency.

Beyond-code policies include those that mandate adherence to LEED or other standards and those that set net-zero energy building requirements--the concept that a building produces as much energy as it uses, or more, by combining a high degree of efficiency with on-site renewable energy generation.

California's Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, for example, set a goal for all new residential and commercial construction to meet net-zero standards by 2020 and 2030, respectively. A handful of cities also have established net-zero targets, including Santa Monica, Calif., which approved an ordinance in 2017 requiring all new single-family construction to be rated net-zero.

To encourage going beyond code, states have created incentives or financing initiatives for high-efficiency buildings. Arizona, for example, enacted legislation in 2016 that amended tax incentives for data centers to include certain newly constructed facilities that meet Energy Star, Green Globes, LEED or comparable standards. In 2014, Maryland legislation established an energy-efficient home construction loan program and fund to build low-energy and net-zero homes.

Some states have set "lead by example" policies, creating efficiency and green-building requirements for government-owned facilities or state-funded projects. In Hawaii, 2015 legislation set a collective goal for the University of Hawaii system to be rated net-zero by 2035, and 2017 legislation created a revolving loan fund to help meet that goal. Rhode Island lawmakers enacted companion bills in 2017. One expanded the state's Green Building Act to include public real property; the other updated standards, including LEED for building projects, LEED for Neighborhood Development and the Green Building Council's Sustainable Sites.

In the last two years, at least a dozen state legislatures enacted bills on high-efficiency buildings, and in this session at least eight states have introduced legislation related to green and net-zero buildings. As they strive for greater efficiency and more vibrant economies, states may continue going beyond code to achieve their energy conservation goals.
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Title Annotation:TRENDS; states strive to go beyond the building energy code requirements
Author:Cleveland, Megan
Publication:State Legislatures
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2018
Words:539
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