A new central portal, the Green Homes Service, will provide advice and information to Londoners on how to reduce emissions. Over three years, it will deliver nearly 70,000 tonnes of carbon savings and is likely to lead to steep price cuts as manufacturers and suppliers take advantage of larger orders. The project is expected to have a stimulating effect across manufacturing products and service installations, while also potentially providing jobs to otherwise unemployed people.
Plans are in the works to build a futuristic, carbon-neutral 100,000-resident city in the sands of Abu Dhabi, by the Persian Gulf. The Middle East, awash in oil and dollars, may be the one region on earth most capable of building the first city for a post-oil world. The emirate of Abu Dhabi is pouring billions into renewable- and sustainable-energy technologies, stimulating precisely those industries that ultimately could challenge oil's dominance. "What could be better for Abu Dhabi," says the CEO of the government-sponsored organization leading the initiative, "than investing our oil and gas revenues [in something] that will give us leadership in the future?"
Developments like Viking Terrace in Minnesota and Solara in California are proving that affordable housing and green housing are complementary concepts, not opposed. Green construction techniques can make the buildings cost less in the long run, while keeping the bills lower and more consistent for residents. Multiple actors - developers, activists, state and local governments - are engaged in encouraging this change in the way affordable housing is made.
California should make all new homes so energy-efficient by 2020 that they won't need to draw power from the state's electrical grid, according to a plan for meeting the state's future energy needs. The plan is designed both to lower the state's energy use and to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning fossil fuels. The plan calls for applying the same standard to commercial buildings by 2030.
Even homeowners and builders with the greatest green intentions can be stymied by lenders' policies and building codes that do not allow for "unusual" environmentally-responsible techniques and innovations. Builders are also often unaware of or resistant to green building; they could be helped with government-funded free education courses to help them leave behind the wasteful building practices of the past. Green building consultants could be hired to staff state and county offices, much like the agricultural extension services of the past.
In Maasbommel, Netherlands, new homes are being designed that will float when flood waters rise above their foundations -- a prudent adaptation in a country that is already 50% below sea level. "In Holland we have always lived with this threat. We have to live with the water and not against it, so something needs to be done."
Pittsburgh Councilman William Peduto has introduced two pieces of building-related legislation. The first, which passed earlier this month, allows LEED certified buildings to be larger than noncertified buildings in their zoning areas. The second would require new or newly renovated city facilities and development backed with tax-increment financing to attain a LEED silver certification.
Green buildings are important to efforts to create a more efficient infrastructure, but the term itself may confuse. "Green building" is not a standardized product, but a guiding philosophy of building. Green buildings, foremost, need to be appropriate to their surroundings and take advantage of the resources specific to their place.
Cosmetic and add-on projects are not enough to address the systemic problems that climate and energy uncertainty will bring. The status quo must be changed. This is a daunting task, but many are already working on it.
As local governments take the lead in climate protection, a new tool is available to help them rapidly advance green buildings, neighborhoods and infrastructure. Called the "Playbook," this web-based resource shows how strategic actions in these sectors promote economic development, build healthier communities, strengthen energy independence, and support climate protection.