As a long-time investment banker, I'm a believer in reality – not irony. But I do find it ironic that the real estate and construction sectors are both the problem and solution as we try to work our way out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
We all know about sub-prime mortgages and how that awful cancer riddled the markets to such an extent that millions of hard-working Americans are now faced with foreclosure on their homes.
That's the problem, and the Obama Administration gets it and is trying to help as many people as possible hold onto the roof over their heads.
But green building is definitely part of the solution, and the President and his team get this, too.
And with good reason.
Consider some of the compelling numbers and opportunities the White House has been eye-balling:
There are currently 120 million homes, 5.1 million commercial buildings and legions of government office structures in the U.S. today. These structures account for approximately 40 percent of the nation's carbon emissions and consume 60 percent of its raw materials, so if even a reasonable percentage of them were retrofitted and became more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, we'd be setting a major and super-Keynesian economic multiplier in motion.
Legions of Good-Paying Jobs
This data set is critical. And, with the clearly defined retrofit opportunities on the front-end and the ongoing service and upkeep necessities on the back-end, it's why I believe the recently passed Obama stimulus package will create millions of sustainable and good-paying jobs.
I'm not alone in this thinking.
A recent report from the International Labor Organization indicates that Investments in improved energy efficiency in buildings could generate an additional 2 to 3.5 million green jobs in Europe and the United States, with the potential much higher in developing countries.
Touching Industries Across the Board
Another reason why I think green buildings will serve as a dynamic foundation for a broad-based economic recovery is because they touch and affect a wide swath of domestic industry sectors and technologies – including steel, solar, software, semiconductors, building materials, lighting, windows, HVAC and construction.
I also believe green buildings could lead us back to prosperity because the retrofitting revolution will enable the battered and broken down real estate sector to survive and hang in despite the property value carnage that currently plagues the nation.
Getting the Economy Airborne Again
Don't get me wrong: retrofitting isn't going to end the foreclosures; but it is going to offer the macro economy a positive jet that will eventually help it get airborne again.
Silicon Valley and the software industry could gain renewed momentum from the green building stimulus, too. Every eco-structure that is built or retrofit will require digitalized automation services and systems to manage the energy efficiency standards and goals on each floor. And, once green buildings start proliferating, I think we'll look back and agree that they serve as an early adopter market, a proving ground, for a wide range of green technologies that can be applied in other industry sectors across the economy.
Another thing to consider is that green building stimulus is such an important macro-economic driver because of its impact on the global material science market. The development of a cutting-edge clean cement, for example, will almost certainly spur a fresh round of significant infrastructure projects around the world.
The Role of Government
Finally, green building has the potential to kick-start the struggling economy because it brings together the best of the public and private sectors on both the demand and supply sides. The driving and differentiating factor here is the fact that the government owns such a large percentage of the existing building stock in the form of offices, schools and defense department facilities.
The profound impact that green buildings can have on the economy is already evident in the wake of the stimulus bill, which has quickly brought a host of multinationals into the market looking for efficient lighting companies to acquire.
I'm also encouraged by the findings in Turner Construction Company's "Green Building Barometer," which indicates that 75 percent of commercial real estate executives won't let the credit squeeze or shaky economy get in the way of their green initiatives.
The real and immediate challenge, however, will be making sure that the recently allocated stimulus monies targeted at green building activity actually get spent – and spent efficiently and effectively. I'm especially impressed by the stimulus standards and scorecard that Smart Grid News has done for smart grid projects, and I think the green building sector should adopt and adapt something similar for best practices and best results.
In the end, though, I have confidence in President Obama because I think he knows that re-constructing the deteriorating economy starts at the ground floor and continues all the way up to the penthouse – and the soon-to-be green skies above and beyond.
Michael Butler is Chairman and CEO of Seattle-based Cascadia Capital, LLC, a national investment banking firm that is financing the future for a wide range of companies in sustainable industries.
The above opinion piece is from an independent writer and is not connected with Greentech Media News. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not endorsed by Greentech Media.
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