Green Building mandates are coming. Are we ready?
Whether building owners and managers believe in global warming or not, the sustainability movement continues to grow and it will ultimately encompass both commercial and residential structures in the U.S. It is happening with increasing velocity and smart property owners and managers should be preparing now for the inevitable rules and regulations designed to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions and global warming.
A harbinger of things to come can be seen in the State of California, where two new measures will significantly ratchet up the need for building owners to optimize the energy efficiency and sustainability of their structures, whether new or existing.
One measure is AB-32, which requires that the state reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gas – the key ingredient in global warming – from all sources to 1990 levels by 2020. The other measure is the state’s new building codes, Title 24 that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2011. The new codes include the CALGREEN requirements that all new buildings be “more energy efficient and environmentally responsible.” These are mandatory requirements.
While the U.S. still has a long ways to go to be truly sustainable, we are not by any means laggards. Going green is a national movement that is taken seriously by many property owners and developers, and the rest will have to jump on board the green bandwagon, either by law, by consumer demand, or to be considered a good corporate citizen. And there are significant economic benefits for home owners and other property owners and managers to go green.
For instance, approximately $40 billion is spent annually in the United States just to cool buildings, which accounts for one-sixth of all energy consumed annually. Other major consumers of energy in commercial and industrial buildings include manufacturing processes, waste disposal/recycling, water, transportation, and operations. Being truly sustainable – as opposed to being “greenwash” – is a complex and challenging mission.
While there are many different products and procedures available in an ever expanding green marketplace, there are some steps that can be taken which are basic yet effective. At the top of the list is the “cool roof,” which can be implemented rather easily and at a very reasonable cost. Cool roofs consist of materials that effectively reflect the sun's energy from the surface.
There are four broad categories of roofing materials that can be used to upgrade a roof's reflectivity to 'ENERGY STAR' levels: metal, tile, roofing membranes and reflective coating. Of the four, a reflective coating may be the most economically achievable for existing buildings because it doesn’t require any significant retrofitting of the structure, which can be costly and time-consuming. Based on our experience, a reflective coating can lower interior temperature of a commercial or industrial building by 8-12 degrees during the hottest four hours of a summer day, noon to four in the afternoon. This will significantly reduce roof temperatures and more importantly, significantly reduce the building's energy requirements for air conditioning.