Push Begins for ‘Building Star’ Incentives for Commercial Properties

In Environmental Leader, March 5 2010

First there was Energy Star, the long-established energy ratings system. Then came Home Star, an incentive program supported by President Obama. Now, the Senate has introduced a bill that would establish a Building Star program to provide incentives to commercial buildings related to their energy efficiency.

Building Star would promote energy efficient installations in commercial and multi-family residential buildings.

The bill was introduced March 4 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

The program is expected to save building owners more than $3 billion on their energy bills annually by reducing peak electricity demand by an equivalent amount of power as that supplied by 33 300-megawatt power plants.

If fully realized, the program would help reduce U.S. emissions by 21 million metric tons, the bill’s sponsors say.

“Buildings represent 40 percent of the energy used in the United States, and many have old equipment that waste energy and money,” Pryor said.

In addition to rebates to reduce the cost of energy-saving measures such as high-efficiency heating and improved insulation, “Building Star” would also extend low-interest financing options to small businesses and other building owners.

Building Star is similar to Home Star, a parallel program put forward by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that offers energy-efficiency assistance to homeowners.

Through the umbrella group Rebuilding America, Building Star has the support of the National Electrical Contractors Association, the Energy Future Coalition and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association also has pledged its support for the measure.

“Spurring retrofits of commercial and multi-family buildings through Building STAR can start to reverse the downward trend in construction and manufacturing by leveraging private-sector investment to create jobs,” said Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO.

Backers hope to see Building Star included in the upcoming federal jobs legislation.

At least so far, the incentive program would not replace the Energy Star program, or any of its programs that help promote energy efficiency in commercial and industrial settings.

In February, it was announced that the EPA’s Energy Star Leaders prevented the emissions of more than 220,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and saved more than $48 million across their commercial building portfolios in 2009.

The EPA says these savings have quadrupled since 2008 and is the single greatest year of savings since the program’s launch in 2004.

Among items proposed to be covered by the Building Star incentives are:

- building envelope insulation;

- mechanical insulation;

- windows, window films, and doors;

- low-slope roofing;

- HVAC equipment, water heaters, and boilers;

- duct testing and sealing;

- variable speed motors;

- interior and exterior lighting;

- building energy audits, commissioning, tune-ups, and training; and

- energy management and monitoring systems.

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