United States Energy Policies Paradox

In 1979 after the second oil crisis in the United States, president Jimmy Carter proposed an national energy policy and installed thirty two (32) solar panels on the white house roof as a national symbol of the United States beginning to become energy efficient.

After Ronald Reagan was elected president the solar panels were removed from the white house roof, completely dismantled President Carters energy and conservation policies, proceeded to implement reckless energy policy choices, as the great communicator republican stalwart, went on to deeply cut the national renewable energy laboratory (NREL) budget by 90%, eliminated the wind tax credit, reduced spending on solar panel research, reduced energy efficiency standards for automobiles.

Twenty years later, in 2000 when George W. Bush (GWB) was appointed president by the supreme court GWB strategy for a national energy policy was for vice president Dick Chaney to focus on importing more oil on the world market to combat the growing thirst of oil of United States energy consumption. This decision resulted in numerous subsequent wars and a world wide collapse in the financial markets which the entire world is still mopping up after more than 6 years after Bush was appointed president and GWB retired to his ranch located at Crawford, Texas. As of 2017 republicans still deny climate change is occurring.

In 2008 a legitimately elected president Barrack Obama renewed the United States focus on energy efficiency independence, climate change, carbon emissions and world wide US collaboration moving towards developing a sustainable green nation. With accepted realization of climate change, and decades of collaboration of accumulated scientific data of climate change effects, implemented an energy retrofit on the white house reinstalling American made solar panels on the roof of  the white house.  The cost of solar panels has fallen by more than 90% over the last 3 decades. The Obama white house solar panel instillation clearly illustrates the tipping point for United States energy policy implementation.

Eight years later, with the surprise 2016 election of president Donald Trump, who previously called climate change a “Hoax” used his executive power to order revisions, and omissions located at the Epa.gov website. The database is years of the most comprehensive scientific data concerning climate change. Early revisions include: removing Federal partner collaboration page changed to EPA collaboration page. Removing carbon pollution as a cause linked to climate change. Removing all references to president Obama’s climate action plan. Removing United States commitment to United Nations climate negotiations. Removing and limiting pubic science data paves the way to deny climate change. The EPA will be scaled back, or even possibly eliminated under a president Trump administration! President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris 21 agreement. This has lead to a large backlash from many corporations and environmental organizations.

Additionally many Federal agencies were ordered by president Trump to stop dispersing information concerning climate change. These same type of events occurred under the George W. Bush administration making climate change data less accessible to the public at large. President Trumps picks for Department of energy Rick Perry. Secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue, Scott Pruitt EPA,  and Ryan Zinke secretary of Interior, all have a climate denier legacy. With the current White House staff, the ideological divide between republicans and democrats has widen during the last 35 years.

This persistent dichotomy between the democrats and the republicans after more than 35 years clearly illustrates the quagmire the United States has concerning implementing a comprehensive sustainable national energy policy. As these past federal piece meal decisions have effected the lives of over  320 million people living in the United States.

This continuing national void in Federal decision policy implementation has lead to a national fragmented green policy nationwide. Several different groups have attempted to step in to fill this void leading to consumer confusion and bewilderment concerning the perception and associated costs concerning energy efficiency (EE) and green building. Therefore in the national marketplace consumers are now well aware of climate change effects and are motivated to do the right thing however many are mislead and become confused along the way! Leading to many misconceptions in the current marketplace.

Here at the greencommunities.com  portal, we will document, and publish relevant results concerning the development of the green residential/commercial market. There is a continuing array of many  local and regional green certification programs.  The national prevalent recognized green energy efficient brands are:

Energy star® was created in the early 1990′s as a joint venture between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the department of Energy. (DOE), Energy star’s primary focus is on improving energy performance and reducing green house gas emissions.

Energy star is a voluntary program covering over 60 different categories and products and  is the nations largest public awareness program associated with labeling of products and buildings. Specific requirements with constant required rigorous upgrades for certification, being implemented for residential/commercial energy efficiency certification include: air sealing insulation, high performance windows, high efficiency heating, cooling and ventilation. Water and moisture conservation and control methods, Estar appliances and lighting. The combined energy efficiency (EE) improvements are up to 30% more energy efficient over conventional homes. However many green communities far exceed this 30% threshold! There is currently over one million Energy Star certified home constructed nationwide!

Estar compliance is achieved by 3rd party green verifiers requiring on site physical inspections verifying the green communities home score and issuing a compliance certificate with a numerical Hers® score rating. It should be noted that solar panels are above the requirements of the Energy star certification.

Energy star also offers an upgrade Indoor air plus certification. When a home contains this certification it is designed to control indoor air quality(IAQ). Using design and added features to each home, contaminants, radon, mold and moisture are all controlled within the indoor environment.

Leed® founded in 1993 stands for leadership in energy and environmental design. Leed is a voluntary program and is administered through United States green building council (USGBC). USGBC is an international nonprofit that offers various types of green rating systems for all types of structures, including schools and hospitals internationally. One rating is specifically designed and targeted for green neighborhood certification. Points can be awarded for smart location, transit orientated development (TOD), close to or adjacent to mass transit systems, discouraging urban sprawl, designing and constructing a walkable neighborhood, with a high walkscore constructing green infrastructure, sustainable green energy efficient buildings.

Leed certification process awards points and has four (4) different levels that can be achieved. A Leed committee continues to implement  continuous rigorous upgrades over the years. New standards are usually posted for public comment. Leed platinum is the highest and most stringent level to achieve.

leed certified 45-59 points

leed silver 60-74 points

leed gold 75-90 points

leed platinum 90-136 points

Points can be achieved by not focusing on energy efficiency but selected categories, such as water consumption, indoor air quality, green building materials, an emphasis placed upon connectivity and proximately to public transportation, transit orientated development (TOD).

The USGBC continues to make improvements and upgrades to obtain LEED green certification. Recent introduction of ARCa new performance platform for neighborhoods communities and cities, has been released in 2016. ARC places a performance score from one to 100 based upon global building data, across five major categories. The ARC platform is designed to deliver real time analytic scores for live metrics, benchmarking against industry peers at local and international levels. The new platform supports data sharing for comparison analysis.

The US government utilizes Leed as the certification tool for government buildings, however recently there has been a drop in government leed certification as certified wood sourcing has become a point of contention concerning leed certification. It is also noteworthy that over 60% of leed certification has occurred outside of the United States as the entire world is moving towards sustainability.

Leed requires 3rd party certification from a green rater which must be tested and certified by the USGBC. Leed also has a significant cost structure associated with its certification process. This added cost structure has alienated many of the nations potential green home builders.

National Green building standard®(NGBS) Approved and debuted in 2009 more than 15 years later than energy star or leed certification. The NGBS is a collaboration between the National association of home builders (NAHB) and International code council (ICC). The NGBS is the only standard to have the approval of the American National Standards Institute(ANSI). The ICC700 national green building standard includes home site design and site selection, Energy efficiency and water conservation, resource conservation and indoor air quality. The primary reason for the NGBS certification is the added cost of Leed certification and the ability of the NAHB to have control and independent development of its own internal green certification process for its participating members.

The NGBS developed and utilizes its own internal  green scoring guidelines. Accumulating points in selected categories with four (4) levels of home performance. Bronze, silver, gold and emerald. NGBS incorporates products from a list of selected vendors. NGBS utilizes 3rd party verification depending upon which performance path the sustainable homeowner decides upon. NGBS has developed and trained green verifiers to personally  inspect and validate that certified buildings are in compliance with the NGBS guidelines. NGBS  continues to develop, upgrade and implement its own internal requirements.

Earthcraft® is a voluntary green certification program developed by the Atlanta home builders association and Southface launched in 1999.  Earth craft is a regional program designed for climate conditions tailored for the southeast United States. States utilizing Earth craft certification are: Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina. Earth craft is a points based certification program where points are accumulated by the home builder through a selection of sustainability measures. Individual points can be accumulated by individual residential lot selection and positioning, selecting resource efficient green  construction and lighting materials, adhering to indoor air quality standards, integrating water conservation measures, individual certified Earth craft homes must also pass air filtration and HVAC duct leaking testing. Gold and platinum levels of Earth craft certification must also meet Energy star guidelines. Earth craft homes are certified and verified by third party trained inspectors.

Earth craft  certifications are available for individual green homes, green renovations, multi family construction, green communities and light industrial. Over 25,000 Earth craft certifications have been certified to date. Earth craft now provides specialized education for their accredited green appraisers  designed for climate conditions in the south east United States.

Water sense®. Is an EPA voluntary program started in 2006, designed to improve water efficiency through consumer educational labeling. With an ever expanding array of products and services displaying the water sense label. Third party verification  and certifying to be a minimum of 20% more water efficient than conventional products without sacrificing consumer performance. In the near future water will become a scarce valuable resource, prices will rise, availability will be restricted, water efficiency will be measured, documented and a numerical water efficiency number from 1 to 100 will be applied to residential and commercial real estate. Nations will control water accessibility to the public at large!

HERS® score/index, home energy rating system (HERS) created in 1995 by third party non profit residential energy services network (Resnet).  The HERS score  is nationally recognized by the federal government, environmental protection agency (EPA) and the mortgage industry. The Hers score is a numeric numeral that directly translates into the energy efficiency of the selected inspected home. The trained and certified ecorater inspects the home and benchmarks the home against a reference home. A computer model of a home that is the same shape and size.

The individual numerical HERS score is then applied  towards the HERS index with numbers ranging from zero to 150. The lower the HERS score the more energy efficient the home is constructed. A net zero home is located at the extreme end of the Hers scale. The net zero home produces as much energy as it consumes. As green building science evolves and becomes more efficient some homes are now producing a negative HERS score(-3). Producing more energy than the home can consume pushing energy back into the electrical grid. Research is now being conducted to install energy storage components within these structures.   In the near future energy and water efficiency will be included in the green mortgage underwriting. As these two products directly effect the annual cost of owning and maintaining a home.

A standard new home would have a numerial rating of 100. A home with a HERS rating of 70 is 30% more energy efficent than a standard new home. A home with a numerical rating of 130 is 30% less energy efficent than a standard new home. The Hers rating is one of the green underwriting tools  that is used in certified green building designations to use recognized legitimate green building science in sustainable homes to qualify for a recognized green certification. The HERS score is one of the green “tools”  to eleminate “greenwashing!”

NET ZERO CERTIFICATION Launched in late 2006 the Living building challenge substantially raises the green bar and offers a rigorous net zero building certification. Net zero green certification is rapidly becoming  the future of  green building. Net zero is located on the extreme end of green building scale. Net zero is defined as either a residential or commercial building structure which produces all the energy that is consumed on an annual basis within the certified building. There are currently three levels of net zero certification. Full certification, petal recognition, and net zero energy  building certification.



The Living Building Challenge is different from other green certification programs in the following respect: There is a third party performance based audit performed after twelve months of actual building operating history to verify energy production and consumption to stay in compliance with the net zero certification. Competing national green building certification programs solely rely on individual project modeling and a point based system to obtain and display their green certifications.

Individual performance based areas which are described as “petals” are comprised of seven distinct areas. The defined areas are: building site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. These seven “petals” are further subdivided into twenty separate “imperatives” each focusing on separate areas of influence. Disclosure of materials supply line and health benefits is also part of the net zero certification process.

The Living Building Challenge net zero certification can be applied towards: new construction, renovations, infrastructure, landscape and total community development.

NET ZERO READY  the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has a vast network of resources dedicated to obtaining a clean energy economy and developing a zero energy ready home. Encompassing all types of construction: residential, commercial and industrial. The DOE leads in three key areas: Research and development (R&D), Market stimulation, building codes and equipment standards. The Department of Energy has a very interesting website and is involved in many strategic programs, initiatives and programs in key sustainable areas: Energy efficiency, renewables, and transportation. Net zero ready labeled homes produce as much energy as they consume. These super efficient homes are located at the extreme end on the HERS scale. This is achieved by combing the latest version of Energy Star, with Building Americainnovations, and implementing special programs. Such examples could include: EPA’s indoor plusclimate zonespecifications, and IECC specifications.

Well Building Standard:(IWBI) The certified well standard, administered byDelos living, debuted in 2014. The well standard focuses exclusively on the indoor environment containments  to improve health and wellness for all occupants. People send 90% of their time indoors and are adversely effected by indoor pollutants such as: carbon monoxide (CO2), mold, radon, VOC’s, particulates, and a host of other pollutants. Proper ventilation and filtration is the key to cleansing the indoor air environment. The wellness standard contains seven concepts that effect human occupants. Mind, fitness, comfort, light, air, water and nourishment.

The standard has three levels of certification, silver, gold and platinum. Advancement to each level is obtained by maximum optimization of a checklist of selected features. The knowledgeable accredited third party well verifier visits each site conducts spot tests and performance tests using specialized equipment to collect information on indoor air quality (IAQ), water quality, indoor lighting, and acoustics. The well standard can be applied to all types of indoor environments: schools, commercial, office, industrial, retail buildings, residential and multifamily projects.

The well building certification can be obtained in one of two ways: Descriptive based standard requires a specific technology, design or selected protocols are implemented. Performance based standard, individual project flexibility obtained by a certified well verifier on site visits and specific documentation. Each individual building must be re audited every three years by a well verifier to maintain an active well building standard certification.

As more buildings become well certified surveys from indoor inhabitants concerning the impact on a buildings improved indoor healthy environment will be used as a feed back mechanism. Green building indoor effects have been lacking and nebulous, pointing to lack of scientific evidence. The most comprehensive scientific indoor environmental quality documented business case for improved employee productivity has been completed by theCOGFX study. The surprising quantitative results have been verified and published. The simplistic indoor ROI results of the Well building standard research are:

  1. Human cognitive scores were 60%  higher in certified green buildings.
  2. 100% higher in enhanced cognitive scores when buildings are both green certified and well certified.

Cognitive functions were significantly elevated in certified green buildings as compared to conventional constructed buildings. Higher levels of fresh air and lower levels of carbon monoxide(CO2) and VOC’s proportionally increases or decreases  human productivity. The specific research areas of crisis response,strategy, basic, applied, and focused activity levels, task orientation, and information seeking  usage and breath of approach are all measurably effected. This is a nascent area of emerging green building research which has far reaching implications.

As of 2016 the Well building standard has 50 million sq. ft. enrolled in certification in over 260 green buildings. The Well standard is now in over 23 countries and is  complimentary certified rating to enhance other green building ratings.

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