Every year, Atlanta hosts a conference called “Greenprints” to provide the latest thoughts on planning, architecture, construction and the use of natural resources.
The conference, which is put on by Southface and the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, brings togther the latest technology on green buildings as well as the people who are working to make our communities more sustainable.
The attendance at this year’s two-day conference (March 25-26) is not as great as in the last few years, but Southface executive director, Dennis Creech, was appreciative of the 300 people who registered. The peak attendance was two years ago when about 500 people were registered to attend.
Interestingly enough, the topic of sustainable design is as much in vogue as it has ever been given the priorities of the new administration. President Barack Obama has made energy and sustainability a centerpiece of his agenda.
Those are hopeful signs for Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, who was the keynote speaker at today’s lunch.
Architecture 2030’s goal is to transform the building sector to significantly reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.
Of all the energy used in the United States, 42 percent goes towards building operations; and another 8 percent is used to construct buildings. The whole transportation sector uses 27 percent of energy while industries make up the rest.
For Mazria, that means that if significant change is going to happen in our country, it needs to begin with the building industry.
Architecture 2030’s goal is to have all new buildings and those that undergo major renovations be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030.
The federal government already signed on to that commitment as have five states and numerous cities, including Atlanta.
But Mazria believes our nation can do even better. He testified in Congress three weeks ago to present a plan of how to jumpstart the building industry while making our structures much more energy efficient.
“We have a window of opportunity,” Mazria said.
The federal government currently is buying mortgage-back securities to keep interest rates low. The lower interest rates are encouraging people to refinance their mortgages. But Mazria is concerned that those savings are not being invested to renovate people’s homes. That means that all these refinancings are not sparking a revival of the housing and construction industry.
Under the plan being proposed by Architecture 2030, the administration would offer interest rate incentives for people who are willing to make their homes more carbon neutral.
For example, a retrofitted home that was able to have a 70 percent reduction in energy would receive a 3 percent interest rate, while a new home would get a 3.5 percent interest rate.
A homeowner then would have a financial incentive to make their houses more energy efficient by provide both a savings in energy costs and mortgage payments. At the same time, the building industry would become engaged by renovating or building homes that would meet those standards.
“Things are moving quickly, and they will move more quickly now given what the new administration wants to accomplish,” Mazria said. “We have a huge opportunity to create jobs and bring the housing sector back.”