The Greenest Building is the One You Don’t Build
With the passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, $6.7 billion has been allocated for renovations and repairs to federal buildings, including at least $6 billion focused on increasing energy efficiency and conservation.
These provisions mark a critical shift in the way we think about green buildings: existing buildings – not just new buildings – are critical to a low-carbon economy. In fact, the greenest building is the one you don’t build.
Consider that 95 percent of our building stock remains static year to year, and that most existing buildings are startlingly inefficient in their energy use, and you’ll understand the immense green opportunity presented by existing buildings; they offer the single-greatest opportunity to improve energy efficiency and improve profits across an organization.
More than just transforming our approach to buildings themselves, the stimulus bill is revolutionizing the way organizations must report on their environmental projects, particularly on how they use government funds. In order to secure stimulus funds, organizations have to prove that they will use the money wisely.
For example, contracts must be fixed-price to the greatest extent possible, and they must be secured through a competitive bidding process. In addition, every financial step of the project must be documented in a way that is easily auditable.
With these standards for accountability and transparency, using an Excel spreadsheet is no longer sufficient – organizations need to turn to new technologies with bid-tracking capabilities, auditing tools, and other project management features that can streamline the process of controlling the budget and reporting on it.
While many organizations will struggle with these legislative measures, the prepared ones understand the need for enterprise-class software to manage their building efficiency projects and report transparently on the ROI from these projects.
In addition, reporting standards now focus primarily on financial transparency and accountability, but environmental reporting requirements are not far behind.
We will likely see a cap-and-trade model in the United States for limiting carbon emissions in order to reach a low-carbon economy. In fact, Obama has already stated that he will implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, and we can expect incremental changes leading up to that goal.
In a low-carbon economy, organizations must report their carbon emissions – including those from their buildings – and they need to put the right systems in place now. Technology is the key to those systems. For example, technologies exist today that help organizations measure, manage, and reduce their environmental impact and report on every detail of their improvements so the public knows how funds are being spent.
Organizations need to evaluate their technology strategies now in order to be in the right position to receive stimulus funds, use them wisely, meet financial reporting mandates, and prepare for near-term environmental legislation.
George Ahn is the president and CEO of TRIRIGA Inc., a leader in integrated workplace management solutions. The company’s TREES software helps businesses measure, manage and reduce the environmental impact of their real estate portfolios.
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