by Laura Washington | The District’s reputation as a green city continues to grow. Already, there are over one million square feet of green roofs in the city, making it a national leader in the square footage of green roofs per capita, and second to Chicago in the total area of green roofs. Despite this impressive ranking, residential building owners lag behind in green roof installation. Currently, the federal government is the largest owner of green roofs in the District followed by local government, private institutions, and companies. Missing from this list are residential buildings.
So, why are residential building owners so reluctant to install green roofs? Well, one reason may be that, whereas many institutions, government agencies and private companies and developers of new construction projects in the District are required to adhere to stormwater management regulations, residential owners with existing buildings don’t have the same compliance-driven motivation.Individual residential construction does not typically trigger the District’s stormwater regulations because, even with new construction, a residential addition or new building typically has a land disturbance footprint that is smaller than then the 5,000 square feet that triggers the regulations.
Another reason may be that many residential building owners are not fully aware of the benefits of green roofs. Sure green roofs are great for beautifying our built environment and even increasing property marketability, but green roofs can save residents money – an attractive incentive for renters on a tight budget or for those who are just environmentally friendly. A green roof absorbs the heat from the sun and generates energy which can translate into lower energy bills and can also serve as insulation, keeping heat and air conditioning inside the building during the winter and summer months.
Many residential building owners may also not know where to find resources available to coordinate and fund installation. Many may not know that there are programs available like the District’s Green Roof Rebate Program that offers a rebate to cover some of the cost of green roof installation and teaches building owners how to make a green roof a viable economical investment. The Green Roof Rebate Program, which is funded by the District Department of the Environment and currently operates under the auspices of the Anacostia Watershed Society, has assisted more than 51 District property owners since its inception in 2003. Green roof projects have ranged in size from under 200 square feet to over 60,000 square feet and have been instrumental in reducing stormwater effects on the city and its local waterways.
It is clear that there is a growing recognition of the benefits of green roofs in cities across America. From using green roofs to increase buildings‘ marketability and to simultaneously decrease the cost for stormwater management, many commercial property owners as well as the local and federal government in the District, for example, are helping to ensure that we are moving toward Mayor Gray’s vision for the District to become the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the United States in just one generation. Residential property owners in the District are critical players in this effort.
If you are a property owner in the District interested in transforming your building into one that is sustainable and more marketable, learn more about the District’s Green Roof Rebate Program. Visithttp://ddoe.dc.gov/greenroofs for more information or www.anacostiaws.org/greenroof to submit an application.
Laura Washington is the Program Manager for DC’s Green Roof Rebate Program at the Anacostia Watershed Society.
by Leah Lemoine | Building and development practices are evolving. Green building and low-impact development (LID) techniques such as rain gardens, cisterns, and permeable pavement are increasingly becoming codified and incentivized, bringing them closer to standard practice. However, impediments to widespread application of LID remain.
First, the perception that these sustainable practices are more expensive than traditional stormwater management persists. Ambitious efforts to capture up to 80% or even 100% runoff can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but often the difference in cost to traditional methods of stormwater management and landscaping is minimal and those costs can be recouped from savings on the water bill and stormwater fee. Then there are those who prefer using familiar approaches rather than moving into the relatively new technologies of LID. A lack of familiarity can make the planning process daunting.
These impediments hold true even more so for smaller-scale projects, such as those on single- and multi-family residential sites. Incentivizing LID practices such as rain gardens, rain barrels, and permeable pavement for lot-level applications is an important tool that local governments can use to help residents overcome technical and financial barriers to installing LID features and, simultaneously, protect local watersheds.
The District has created an ambitious regulatory and incentive structure for green building, particularly with regard to stormwater management. Its new stormwater regulations, currently under public review, mandate that substantial developments incorporate stormwater management practices. However, the new regulations will not address a large portion of the city’s residential properties, an approximate 40% of local land use. Most residential properties will not trigger stormwater regulations due to their size, as the minimum area of disturbance for which stormwater regulation is mandated is 5,000 square feet, nor would regulations be the best way to approach managing runoff from such a varied stock of homes with very different needs and resources.
Regulations are an important measure in curbing stormwater pollution, but should be used in conjunction with incentives if cities hope to address runoff generated from the large percentage of land area made up of single and multi family residential properties that do not fall under stormwater regulations. Incentives are not only effective but present a unique opportunity to change how citizens relate to their built and natural environments.
The District Department of the Environment (DDOE), Watershed Protection Division, is using a series of stormwater incentive programs to help residential properties and churches plan and implement stormwater retrofit projects to curb stream degradation. Its RiverSmart Homes [http://ddoe.dc.gov/riversmarthomes ] and RiverSmart Communities [http://ddoe.dc.gov/service/riversmart-communities] programs offer grants and technical assistance to residents to capture stormwater runoff in rain gardens, pervious pavement, and rain cisterns for reuse. Additionally, these programs help to change residents’ perception of stormwater from a potential hazard to resource.
Incentive programs such as the District’s Stormwater such as RiverSmart Homes and RiverSmart Communities are a necessary tool to help address both the financial and technical barriers to implementation as well as educating the public on stormwater and watershed health.
Leah Lemoine is an environmental protection specialist in the Watershed Protection Division at the District Department of the Environment. She has been helping residents manage stormwater through the RiverSmart Communities, Homes and Schools programs since 2009.
by Adam Sledd | Most people in the Washington DC metro area work in office or retail space that is leased rather than owned by their employers. While many now recognize the benefits of green buildings, property owners and tenants are still learning how their leases can also impact the energy use of a building.
Green leasing is a broad term describing adjustments made to commercial leases to reflect each party’s energy and sustainability goals. Most often, green leasing refers to using lease language that repairs the split-incentive problem. Split incentives arise when the party responsible for paying for an energy-saving improvement does not receive the benefits of that improvement.
For example, the owner of an office building whose tenants pay their own electric bills would have little incentive to install energy-saving light fixtures in tenant spaces. A green lease solves this problem by allowing the owner to recoup the cost of the improvements over time.
In addition to solving the split-incentive problem, green leases can impact many other areas of the landlord-tenant relationship. This can mean specifying that janitorial staff will use certified green cleaning products or limiting weekend operating hours to cut down on HVAC costs.
For a property owner looking to maintain Energy Star certification or LEED status, restricting how tenants build or maintain a space is extremely important. Without guidelines, the tenant may make their space so energy intensive that it impacts the entire building’s certification. Increasingly, property owners are requiring tenants to build out their new spaces to specific sustainable or energy efficient guidelines such as LEED for Commercial Interiors.
For those interested in pursuing a green lease for their own organization, whether as a tenant or as a property owner, the best path is to start as early in the leasing process as possible. Tenants should take their sustainability goals into account during the initial site selection process, and make sure to communicate with the landlord each step of the way.
For more information on green leases, visit www.greenleaselibrary.com.
Adam Sledd is the green leasing program manager for the Institute for Market Transformation.
by Bill Updike | If there were an Olympic gold medal for green building, the District of Columbia would contend. With more than 250 LEED certified projects already in place, and another 471 in the pipeline, the District is a national leader in the green building sector. And the District may become the first city in the nation to adopt the International Green Construction Code as a mandatory code, cementing its standing.
The green code will help reduce energy and water consumption, enhance the natural environment, decrease construction and material waste, mitigate the heat island effect and reduce carbon emissions, reduce light pollution, and increase the health and welfare of building tenants and the District as a whole. The green code will function as an “overlay” code, and will sit on top of the other traditional codes, which historically have not had green elements in them.
The green code is organized similarly to the well-known LEED rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, with categories for site development and land use, material resource conservation and efficiency, energy conservation, efficiency and carbon dioxide equivalent emission reduction, water resource conservation, quality and efficiency, and indoor environmental quality and comfort. Additional sections include building commissioning and a unique code chapter that will allow designers and builders some flexibility in how they meet the code requirements. The green code will generally apply to all commercial projects and multi-family residential buildings five stories and above, though some specific code sections will only apply to larger projects and to new construction and major renovations.
A group of experts from the private sector has been working with District government representatives to bring the green code to the city. Some of the issues that the working group is addressing include: amending the model green code to fit an urban environment such as the District (the code is written for both urban and suburban environments); removing conflicts with the District’s other progressive regulations related to the built environment; and placing some square footage thresholds so as not to overburden very small projects. Adapting the green code to meet the needs of the District has been a consensus based process, and the group expects that the green code will be ready for public comment this Fall and for adoption in the Spring of 2013.
Bill Updike is the Green Building Specialist at the District Department of the Environment.
In May, the Green Building Advisory Council issued the first Green Building Report for the District of Columbia [http://ddoe.dc.gov/publication/green-building-report-2007-2011,] which catalogues the implementation of the Green Building Act and the progress made toward a more sustainable built environment.
by Sam Witherbee | For years most environmental non-profits and civic-minded organizations have pursued environmental and social change with a laser focus on pursuing one type of power; political power. Organizations would build power to try to affect elections and political dialogue to bring about good policy and regulation. A group of organizations in the Washington DC metro-region, led by the non-profit Groundswell, are beginning to shift this focus and are actively pursuing a different type of power to achieve environmental and social change: collective buying power. Their idea is that by organizing collective-purchasing groups, communities are put directly in the drivers’ seat in shaping and influencing business or corporate behavior.
This collective buying power concept is on display in Groundswell’s Community Power Project, which brings together institutions from the faith, education, labor, and affordable housing communities and helps them use their collective buying power to force energy suppliers to provide them clean energy at a reduced rate. Though the project is open to any interested participants, Groundswell focuses on mission-based community institutions in order to maximize the program’s social impact. To-date, Groundswell has consolidated $5 million in clean electricity purchases, and participants have saved up to 30 percent on their annual energy bills.
Although most participants so far are faith institutions, some affordable housing developers have realized that they can also benefit from participation. The National Housing Trust, which recently joined the collective, bought 100 percent wind-produced electricity at four of its affordable housing properties in the District of Columbia, while saving more than 25 percent on its bills. The National Housing Trust is projected to save thousands of dollars over the course of three years and is demonstrating a strong commitment to clean energy and the environment.
To engage multi-family properties, Groundswell works with property owners and managers to enroll common area electricity accounts in the collective and also negotiates for a drastically reduced clean energy rate that is offered to building tenants. One of the challenges of the program is how to increase tenant participation. Even though tenants stand to save money on their utility bills by participating, the task of enrolling tenants has been challenging, especially when compared to the significant uptake we have seen with members of participating congregations. The success is in place likely because faith institutions regularly and openly communicate with their congregation during weekly services and can easily share such opportunities.
The experiences of multi-family developers like The National Housing Trust show that there is a tremendous opportunity to drastically expand participation from similar organizations that are providing affordable housing to our city’s residents. We have not had participation from more housing developers because most of them do not know about our organization at this point. Going forward, Groundswell will be more directly targeting the multi-family housing community through partnerships and marketing to help them learn about this opportunity.
Sam Witherbee, Lead Organizer at Groundswell.
by Christophe A. G. Tulou | How many people does it take to screw in a high-efficiency LED light bulb? How many to plant and maintain a vegetated green roof? Install solar panels on a rooftop? Weatherize a house? Install a rain garden?
Since all these activities are happening now in the District of Columbia, wouldn’t it be good to know? Especially since they represent a new wave of job-creating, environmentally-friendly activities called a “green economy”?
According to a Brookings Institution’s report, Sizing the Clean Economy, the Washington, DC metropolitan area ranks fourth among 100 of the largest metropolitan areas in the US in the growing green economy, which totaled 70,828 clean jobs in 2010. The District had (employed 22,462 people in clean jobs) 22,462 clean jobs in 2010 (with a 1.5% annual growth rate from 2003 to 2010).
As part of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative, growing the green economy and the jobs it creates is front-and-center. The Mayor has made clear he plans to establish the District as the nation’s healthiest, greenest and most livable city. DDOE and other agencies are already working hard to make this a reality. Last year, DDOE established—pursuant to DC Council’s forward-focused Clean and Affordable Energy Act—the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU), one of the first of its kind in the country. The DC SEU is a private contractor that develops, coordinates, and provides programs that promote the sustainable use of energy in the District. Its job is simple enough: reduce per capita energy consumption by one percent per year; reduce the peak demand for energy; reduce energy consumption by the District’s highest energy users; encourage robust adoption of renewable energy; focus particularly on low-income communities, and create green jobs. Green jobs include the jobs of people who audit energy use in buildings, put in weather stripping, add the insulation, replace drafty windows, install high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioners, install solar units, and . . .yes. . . replace inefficient light bulbs.
In five short months in 2011, the DC SEU created employment for 357 District residents as temporary field staff, permanent office staff, and project-specific implementation contractors. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The DC SEU is obliged to increase those jobs each year as it invests more in the District’s energy reliability, security, innovation, and efficiency. Additionally, almost 75% of the funds paid to green jobs contractors went to the District’s Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) contractors.
Through Mayor Gray’s Sustainable DC initiative—which has engaged over a thousand citizens to help define our sustainable future—many ideas are surfacing that could substantially build on our solid fourth-place green economy foundation. Among suggestions under active consideration are: urban farms on vacant spaces and rooftops; significant improvements in building energy efficiencies; more renewable energy installations; a smart electric grid; millions of additional square feet of green roofs; green streets and alleys; LED street lighting throughout the city; many more electric vehicle charging stations, streetcars, more bike lanes; recycling and composting facilities; and the list goes on.
All these steps move us toward that healthy, green and livable city the Mayor envisions, and all create jobs. Many are highly accessible jobs—such as planting and nurturing the over one million square feet, or nearly 30 acres, of green rooftops already in place—and others require more specialized capabilities, like weatherization and renewable energy installations, which our universities and community college, and community-based organizations are poised to teach. Come to think of it, we are not just talking green jobs; we are plotting green careers.
Just imagine what we can create with our collective imaginations, creativity, and hard work.
Christophe A. G. Tulou is the Director of District Department of the Environment.
by Robert D. Hormats | Leaders from around the globe will gather this upcoming June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20. The conference provides a venue for governments and stakeholders to consider cross-cutting global environment, development, and economic needs. Indeed, there is much to be discussed. The population of the world is seven billion, of which almost one-seventh go hungry every day, one-fourth do not have access to electricity, and one-fifth live in areas where water is scarce. In addition, approximately one-third of the world’s biodiversity has been lost since 1970, three-fourths of the world’s marine fisheries are fully or over exploited, and two-fifths of the planet’s original forests are gone.
Rio+20 marks a new foundation for engaging the global community to build greener and more inclusive economies, smarter cities, and to strengthen institutions and networks to address current and future challenges. The Obama Administration has set a strong foundation and trajectory for enhancing sustainability and building a green economy at home and abroad. Our Global Development Policy recognizes that sustainable development offers a promise of long-term, inclusive, and enduring growth that builds on accountability, effectiveness, efficiency, coordination, and innovation. The United States’ approach to Rio+20 is focused on three key areas:
1. The Built Environment: Clean Energy and Urbanization – Energy is vital for the function of businesses, factories, farms, and schools. Energy security challenges are therefore directly linked to advancing economic development in many countries, especially to reach the 1.3 billion people who do not have access to electricity. We are using development resources to create markets that attract private sector energy-related investments to underserved populations. On the demand side, we are connecting the conservation of natural resources to profitability, thereby protecting the environment and freeing business resources for other types of job creating activities. Urban centers, in particular, offer the opportunity to capture these types of cross-cutting efficiencies.
2. The Natural Environment: Ecosystems Management and Rural Development – Nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger. To increase food yields and nutrition with fewer inputs and smaller impacts on the environment, we need both innovative agricultural technologies and improved understanding of agricultural systems—as well as integrated resource management of our terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. We are extending support for sustainable, agriculture-led growth that will help lift people out of poverty through the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.
3. The Institutional Environment: Modernizing Global Cooperation – The Internet, social media, and other connection technologies allow us to transcend the walls of traditional institutions, fostering truly global collaboration. By embracing twenty-first century connectivity, we can deploy the collective ingenuity and capability of governments, citizens, businesses, and civil society stakeholders from around the world to promote economic development and sustainable environmental practices. In addition, we can enhance national governance capacity in an inclusive manner by improving transparency, public participation in decision making, accountability, and institutional arrangements for effective implementation and enforcement.
The Rio+20 conference offers a chance to come together and consider the needs of our people and planet. How we deal with this moment—whether we succumb to a zero-sum competition over increasingly limited resources or cooperate with each other to build green economies—will determine in large part the security and prosperity of America and the world in the twenty-first century. Mobilizing our greatest asset, the collective capacity and strength of our citizens is vital to our success.
Robert D. Hormats is Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.
by Paul T. Anastas, Ph.D | Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has said time and again that science is the backbone of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency depends upon its scientists and engineers, together with an extensive network of their research colleagues — supported through agency partnerships, grants, awards, and fellowships — to provide the high caliber research, analysis and assessments needed to protect human health and the environment.
For 40 years, EPA has been a world leader in scientific research in human health and environmental protection. Agency science has played a critical role in landmark environmental achievements that have made a real difference, particularly for those living in urban communities such as Washington DC. EPA science led to actions to greatly reduce exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, remove lead from gasoline, reduce air pollution, and lower the risk from exposures to toxins in the environment. The cumulative benefits have reduced contamination, decreased pollution, restored ecosystems, improved public health, and increased overall life expectancy for all Americans.
Building on that legacy, EPA science is now poised to advance human health and environmental protection on a path toward sustainability. Agency research leaders have been working together and engaging stakeholders to build an overall research portfolio that will leverage EPA’s science efforts to meet the information needs of the EPA and its partners, while simultaneously advancing environmental solutions for a sustainable future.
EPA scientists are erasing the boundaries between scientific disciplines to create a set of integrated, trans-disciplinary research programs: air, climate and energy; safe and sustainable water resources; sustainable and healthy communities; chemical safety for sustainability; human health risk assessment; and homeland security research.
The realigned research plan aims to approach environmental challenges with a holistic, systems perspective. It will allow the agency to continue providing the high caliber science and engineering solutions needed to meet local and national environmental challenges in a cost-effective manner. In an era of challenging budgets, EPA’s new integrated research approach toward sustainability will bring cutting-edge science results to bear faster and more efficiently.
The end result of EPA’s science efforts will be to continue to build on the agency’s legacy of achievement, while helping communities across the United States protect their environment and move forward on a path toward a sustainable future.
Paul T. Anastas is the Assistant Administrator for the U.S. EPA’s Office of Research and Development. To learn more about EPA’s science and technology efforts please visitwww.epa.gov/research.
by Mark Muro | For all the debate, speculation, and controversy that have surrounded the hoped-for growth of the so-called “clean” economy and “green jobs” one thing has been in pretty short supply: facts.
For all the talk of its alluring promise, the clean or green economy remains an enigma in large part due to the continued absence of standard national definitions and data.
That changed with a recent report assessing the current nature, size, and growth of the “green” or “clean” economy in U.S. regions. Developed by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program in partnership with Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice, our report and its underlying database titled, “Sizing the Clean Economy,” are not perfect accountings. Still, they offer a compelling new national and metropolitan look at a sector of the economy that has remained at once an important aspiration and a frustrating enigma. Look over the report, watch the video of the discussion, and check out the special interactive mapping tool developed — all aimed at shedding further light on the geography of this hard-to-assess sector.
Over the past year, we’ve developed and analyzed a detailed database of establishment-level employment statistics pertaining to a sensibly defined assemblage of low-carbon and environmentally oriented industries in the United States and its metropolitan areas.
Covering the years 2003 to 2010 for larger U.S. metropolitan areas, the resulting information provides a new source of timely information that is both consistently applied so as to allow cross-region comparisons but detailed enough to be of some use to inform national, state, and regional leaders on the dynamics of the U.S. low-carbon and environmental goods and services super-sector as they are transpiring in U.S. regions.
To be sure, localized drill-downs in particular places may capture a fuller profile in some regions. But overall, our new information provides what we believe is a plausible, useful, first-of-its-kind measure of the size and growth of the clean economy as it is occurring in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas.
It’s time that all U.S. regions begin to have access to some at least rough order-of-magnitude facts about the size and shape of their clean economies.
Mark Muro is Senior Fellow and Policy Director of Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute.
by Howard Ways, AICP | Much of the recent national discourse around the green economy centers on the success or failure of individual companies like Solydra. While there are several factors that contribute to the profitability of a business, local economies are an intricate, complex web of market sector forces and public sector policies. With less national fanfare, cities like the District of Columbia have made tremendous strides in transforming local economies into more green economies.
Unlike the industrial or information economies before, the green economy is, at its core, a restorative economy. The near consensus in the scientific community is that the earth’s weather patterns and temperature have changed over the last 50 years and much of the evidence points to human settlement patterns as a root cause of these changes. A green economy can help slow the pace of environmental change, reverse the harmful trends of the last half century, improve complex ecosystems, and restore natural habitat.
Many metrics are used to measure the impact of the green economy – for example, the percentage of municipal waste that gets recycled or composted, the number of green buildings constructed, the percentage of people who commute to work by walking, biking or public transit. However, it is green jobs that often emerge as the top measurable output of the green economy.
If ten people are asked what a green job is, they may provide ten different responses. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines green jobs as either:
Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources or
Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.
Many studies, including the District’s 2009 Green Collar Job Demand Analysis and the U.S. Conference of Mayors 2006 Metro Green Jobs Report, estimate the number of green jobs in the District to be between 22,000 and 25,000, or about 4% of all jobs in the city. The composition of these jobs reflects trends within the larger labor pool, with many of the District’s green jobs in construction, real estate, engineering, design, and law. A higher percentage of green jobs in the District require a bachelor’s degree than in most cities.
As green business practices become more commonplace, the studies project nearly 200,000 green jobs being created over 25 years. The District, with its educated workforce and progressive public policies, is poised to remain a leader in the green economy.
Howard Ways is the Director of Planning and Sustainability at the University of the District of Columbia.