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Atlanta Restauranteurs Resisting Push for Green Building Legislation

Recent efforts by Atlanta’s restaurant industry to resist proposed green building legislation implicate the conclusions of NIBS’ report about state- and local-level green building policy which we noted last month here at GRELJ. The Atlanta Sustainable Building Draft Ordinance would require the city’s commercial buildings and residential dwellings three stories or higher to comply with either LEED or specifications drafted by the Sustainable Atlanta committee. What’s particularly interesting about the pushback is the extent to which it reflects the conclusions in the NIBS report; for example, Keisha Carter, director of public affairs of the Georgia Restaurant Association, stated in a recent piece in Nation’s Restaurant News that “[t]here needs to be more due diligence on this before the city council can even consider passing it. There is a lot of political play going on with this thing, but we’re trying to stay on top of it and be heard. There is major concern that it will pass, but the members of the city council must come to realize it’s not in any shape to be passed just yet.” This comment reminded me of language in the NIBS report which noted that “[a]t an increasing rate, state and local governments and their code/regulatory agencies are adopting building rating / certification systems, intended as voluntary systems, to be their code or regulatory requirements, often without fully understanding their benefits, tradeoffs, and costs.”

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Section 201 of Waxman-Markey Could Impose Energy Efficiency Mandates as Decried by NAIOP

As the Waxman-Markey climate change legislation heads to the Senate, I think it’s important to note that, as currently drafted, the bill includes provisions that could impose the types of energy efficiency mandates which NAIOP argued against in its controversial report that was released earlier this year. Section 201 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) would first set baseline standards for all commercial (ASHRAE 90.1-2004) and residential buildings (the 2006 IECC code) and dates for certain percentage reduction targets in energy consumption over those baselines. The Act would require an immediate 30 percent reduction over those baselines once enacted (likely in 2011 or 2012 if the bill proceeds through the Senate and is implemented as drafted), followed closely by a 50 percent reduction by 2014 for residential buildings and 2015 for commercial buildings. The reduction mandate would increase by 5 percent every 3 years through 2029/2030 for a total reduction of 75 percent over the baselines. However, the Department of Energy would have the ability to increase or decrease the reduction targets based on technological feasibility. Section 201 further obligates state and local governments to adopt the codes, or their own codes that meet or exceed the established targets; the federal government itself will enforce the national codes if state and local governments fail to comply. If you recall the comments from NAIOP President Thomas Bisacquino in the aftermath of the uproar created by the NAIOP study, Waxman-Markey may ultimately create the precise scenario that NAIOP and its constituents feared: 30 to 50 percent reductions over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 in the short-term.

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NAIOP Responds to Critics by Making Case for Incentives to Boost Efficiency in Commercial Office Buildings

I took great interest in a number of the documents that NAIOP released in the aftermath of its controversial energy efficiency study. The organization has compiled both an FAQ and fact sheet detailing the various assumptions it made and conclusions it drew in an effort to clarify some of the unproductive vitriol that has flown around the web over the past month decrying its conclusion that 30 percent energy reductions are not practicable for the majority of commercial office properties. Both the fact sheet and FAQ are available on NAIOP’s web site and point out that the results of the study do not apply to all buildings; “[t]he study analyzes a typical office building that represents more than 50 percent of new Class A construction [that took place] in 2008.” NAIOP also clarifies that the subject building is a real 95,000-square-foot, speculative commercial office property in California, and claims that the results of its study show what’s possible for the “vast majority of new construction without having to redesign a typical office building,” calling the results “impressive.”

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Green Building Industry Apoplectic Over NAIOP Commercial Energy Efficiency Study

Ed Mazria said that it was “meant to confuse the public and stall meaningful legislation, insuring that America remains dependent on foreign oil, natural gas and dirty conventional coal.” Lloyd Alter of Treehugger called it “one of the dumbest studies that has crossed our screen in a while.” Danielle Sacks at Fast Company wants to “make sure studies like these don’t make it past their press release.” So what, if anything, are we to make of ConSol’s study, prepared for NAIOP, which concluded that the best possible scenario for energy efficiency improvements to a hypothetical 4-story, 95,000-square-foot office building is 23 percent over the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 Energy Standard? While we continue to wait for more meaningful data about the performance of green buildings, I think the study suggests the danger- for both legislators and stakeholders- of relying on energy modeling of any kind as the basis for policymaking or who agree to assist a green building project in achieving certain energy reductions by the terms of their construction contracts.

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