Report Assesses Federal Funding for Green Building Research

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Research Committee has called for a higher level of funding for research that will advance building design, technology and operations that minimize environmental and human health impacts.

A new report released on April 10 by the committee, "Green Building Research Funding: An Assessment of Current Activity in the United States," finds that research related to high-performance green building practices and technologies amounts to only 0.2 percent of all federally funded research -- an annual average of $193 million per year (2002 to 2005) and only 0.02 percent of the estimated value of annual U.S. building construction and renovation.

According to USGBC, building operation consumes 40 percent of energy and 71 percent of the electricity in the United States, and accounts for 38 percent of the country's carbon dioxide emissions. The building sector requires exponential performance improvements pursuant to its critical role in environmental problems and solutions, and funding for research, development and deployment activities must be significantly expanded to meet this need.

The committee, created in 2006, responded to the funding assessment report's findings with an official position paper that recommends increasing research in areas such as energy and water security, global climate change prevention, indoor environmental quality and passive survivability in the face of natural and human-made disasters.

"Funding levels are not proportionate with the level of impact that the built environment has on our nation's economy, environment and quality of life," said Gail Brager, head of USGBC's research committee. "Elevated research efforts will enable a major shift in design, construction, renovation and operation practices necessary to facilitate large scale improvements to health and environmental conditions."

USGBC initially recommended that the two federal agencies with the primary function of funding academic research -- the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health -- direct at least 2 percent of their research budgets toward issues related to green building research, development and technology transfer in the near term.

Federal agencies recognized for their leadership and encouraged to devote more research funds to green building topics include the U.S. Department of Energy, EPA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, General Services Administration, U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

For the purpose of having a simple benchmark, the USGBC Research Committee proposes a total conservative investment for federal funding of 0.10 percent of annual construction value ($1 trillion), or $1 billion (based on 2004 data).

In addition, USGBC recommended that states should follow the lead of New York and California, which provide unique and positive models for the distribution of state and utility monies for research on increasing the energy and resource efficiency of the built environment.

For more information, contact the USGBC at http://www.usgbc.org.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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