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LEED Gets Regional

Jeff St. John: April 24, 2009, 7:02 PM

Taking advantage of Florida's "abundant local sunshine" with solar panels and preserving agricultural land and cutting stormwater runoff into the Great Lakes in rural Michigan. These and other regional definitions of what makes a building "green" will be part of the United States' premiere green building standard, starting Monday.

That's when the U.S. Green Building Council will launch the third version of its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for green buildings. Among a number of changes will be state-by-state Regional Priority Credits that can give builders extra points toward LEED.

The new version of LEED will also more heavily weigh "strategies that will have greater positive impacts on what matters most -- energy efficiency and CO2 reductions," according to the USGBC's website (see Buildings Without Air Conditioners: The Latest in Energy Efficiency).

LEED buildings are all the rage nowadays. Not only do they burnish the green reputation of builders and occupants, they're also more valuable, according to studies (see Green Building: Cheaper Than You Thought and Green Buildings: No Subsidies Needed?).

Major builders like Webcor are earning most of their revenue from LEED-certified buildings. Then there are the host of startups — Serious MaterialsIntegrity BlockCal-Star Cement and Hycrete among them — aiming to provide green building materials and systems to shave away at the share of U.S. energy involved in building (about 12 percent of the total) and heating, lighting and maintaining buildings (about 40 percent).

Will Utilities Retrofit Your Home for Free?

Michael Kanellos: April 24, 2009, 3:10 PM

Free. The word has defined American culture for over 300 years. (And it sounds so much more dramatic than "The Land of the Brave, Now 10 Percent Off!)

And to curb household energy consumption, utilities may some day give out free energy assessments and possibly some level of retrofits, according to Jim Parks, who runs energy efficiency programs for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Speaking at an event held by TechCoire in Rancho Cordova last night, Parks suggested that one way utilities could get consumers past their ordinary state of inertia is to organize street-wide or neighborhood-wide assessments. Announce that energy efficiency experts would be there on particular day and that they can come into assess your home for free. Who would refuse that? Having the assessment alone could motivate some consumers to fix up their home. (See an energy assessment video here.)

Conceivably, if the retrofits could save enough energy over a given period of time, utilities could come up with a program with help from a state agency to pay for some repairs itself.

Again, it's not here yet, but expect to hear more ideas like this. Energy efficiency has become the chief topic in the green world and it won't likely fade away any day soon.