Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) have introduced legislation that would greatly increase federal influence over state and local building codes concerning energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings. The bill, “S. 1000: The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011,” would establish aggressive annual efficiency goals and targets (overseen by the federal Department of Energy) on the path to so-called “zero-net-energy” for all new construction. Zero-net-energy buildings are required to generate carbon-free energy on site as well as achieve particularly stringent efficiency levels.
Politically predetermined levels of efficiency would be a radical departure from the traditional method for developing model energy codes through consensus-driven processes. For example, each version of the ASHRAE 90.1 standards for commercial buildings is developed over a three-year period by a large group of technical experts drawn from the full spectrum of real estate practitioners. In contrast, the zero-net-energy goal was concocted by an insular group of environmentalists and has been strongly promoted on Capitol Hill for several years. Although this aggressive target has been rejected by Congress for the past six years in a row, Senators Shaheen and Portman have revived the effort with the introduction of their bill.
Although every building owner and tenant wants to be energy efficient, there is tremendous diversity in the retail real estate sector in terms of business models, customer base, and goods and services provided. To assume that all tenants and all landlords should achieve zero-net-energy requires a questionable leap of faith. Yet if it becomes part of each state’s building code, property owners and tenants may find it extremely difficult to meet such standards without incurring excessive costs or making difficult compromises on a wide range of designs and services – not to mention the need to generate on-site electricity.
ICSC will continue to follow this issue and provide input to policy makers on the unique issues confronting multi-tenant retail and mixed-use developments. For more information contact Kent Jeffreys.
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