Whenever a 100-page legislative or legal report is released by an agency, association or group of individuals, the best place to go in the document is the Summary or Findings sections.  So, yesterdary, when the USGBC, AIA, SMACNA and other groups issued its 93-pager entitled Using Executive Authority to Achieve Greener Buildings: A Guide for Policymakers to Enhance Sustainability and Efficiency in Multifamily Housing and Commercial Buildngs, I flipped straight to that place in the document.

The report presents a number of options that the Administration can do right now … without seeking any new funds or authority from Congress … to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability of buildings.  As noted in the Executive Summary, some of the most promising options with the largest reach include:

  • Reforming appraisal and underwriting practices at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac;
  • “Greening” federal banking regulations;
  • Promoting flexible FHA insurance products;
  • Integrating energy efficiency and sustainability criteria into competitive grants and funding;
  • Strengthening minimum property standards for federal housing and economic development programs to reflect energy efficiency and sustainability standards;
  • Improving performance standards applicable to federal buildings and leases;
  • Refining guidance applicable to the energy efficient commercial buildings tax deduction and the national historic preservation tax credit;
  • Using SBA funding to support small business energy efficiency investments; and
  • Streamlining Title 17 loan guarantees to make them suitable for buildings.

What do these options mean for private developers and contractors? As a preliminary matter, it is interesting to see the semi-diverse group of associations (including the USGBC, AIA, BOMA and SMANCA) who support stronger building codes, appliance standards, building labeling, and requirements and incentives for increased energy efficiency. 

I think the real significance of the report for the "green construction" industry is the identification of programs that can spur jobs, investment and development, while at the same time working toward energy efficiency:

All told, the programs identified in this report have the potential to directly provide or facilitate over $72 billion in funding or loan guarantees,2 and can leverage hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment through instruments such as mortgage insurance and regulation of the real estate lending market. 

According to the contributors of the report, even a fraction of this funding can have an impact on availability of green construction projects, which directly affects investment and jobs.