Yesterday, more than 120 leaders in the commercial building community came together with Federal officials at a White House Clean Energy Economy Forum to discuss the role of Federal leadership in sustainable building. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson, and Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims got a conversation started that focused on three key topics: leveraging the scale, financing, and innovation.
You can watch the video of the event on YouTube:
So how do commercial buildings fit into a conversation about the clean energy economy? The built environment accounts for 39% of primary energy use in the US, about half of which is attributable to America’s 5 million commercial buildings, and half to our nation’s 128 million homes. Retrofitting those buildings to make them more efficient saves energy, cuts costs, reduces pollution, and sustains American jobs.
When you look a little closer at commercial buildings, the Federal Government can play an important role by leading by example – exactly as President Obama challenged the Federal agencies to do in his Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.
As the single largest energy consumer in the US economy, the Federal Government had a $24.5 billion utility and fuel bill in 2008, and owns and manages nearly 500,000 buildings. So not only is the Federal Government accountable to the taxpayer to improve our energy efficiency, it also has a unique opportunity to leverage its scale to help create new market opportunities for energy efficient, sustainable building products and services. Leading by example is our responsibility!
Federal buildings also have an important indirect impact on overall environmental performance. At the Forum, Chair Sutley echoed President Obama’s announcement of the expanded Federal Government greenhouse gas pollution reduction target under E.O. 13514. In addition to cutting greenhouse gas pollution from direct sources like Federal buildings, the Federal Government will cut pollution from indirect sources like employee travel and commuting by 13% by 2020. Cumulatively, these two goals will result in a reduction of 101 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the emissions from235 million barrels of oil.
Yesterday’s Clean Energy Economy Forum on Federal Leadership and Sustainable Building was a step towards identifying more innovative ways the Federal Government can lead by example in commercial buildings, and work collaboratively with the private sector and other stakeholders to improve energy efficiency, cut costs, reduce pollution, and create new business opportunities and jobs.
Michelle Moore is the Federal Environmental Executive