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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Americans Going “Green” to Save Health and Money

Americans are Greening for Health and Energy Benefits, Even if the Government Isn’t

There has been a 100% increase in asthma cases in the U.S. in the last 20 years. Asthma is the No. 1 reason kids miss school. Increased pollution has doubled the chance of stroke. We have twice as much pollen due to CO2 increases. Global warming will cost us more in power unless we take dramatic action now.

As a result Americans aren’t waiting on their government to go “green” and the coming changes will impact your office, your home and your wallet – by cutting your energy costs.

Austin, Texas is on the cutting edge of this movement. Its city council is upgrading Austin’s building codes with the goal that all new homes will be “Zero Energy Capable Homes” by 2015. That means that single-family homes would produce as much energy as they consume. That means adding everything from radiant barriers to solar panels.

In Houston, 75% of our Class A building owners intend to adopt the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ which is a certification program. Why? Because it will cut their energy costs for one. For another, studies have shown that LEED- certified buildings have higher occupancy rates, so they make more money, and sell for a higher price per square foot than non-LEED buildings. They tend to have higher occupancy rates. Law firms in Houston are the second most active group pushing these changes. Homeowners should join them to save money as energy costs continue to climb.

New materials, solar panels, reflective roofs, cutting energy loss through windows – all add up to billions in potential savings. One Houston company sells a “cool roof” that cuts energy costs by 30%. The owner tells me that they have a backlog of work while the “tar and sand” flat roof competitors have little to do. The winds are shifting and the smart technology is taking over old ways. The days of black tar roofs have gone the way of the dodo bird.

I have been personally involved with a window film technology that is “green” in that it provides storm security while also providing filtering that cuts energy loss through windows. One homeowner told me their power bills dropped $150/month after installing it. It was put on for hurricane protection so it’s a win-win. The film also kept errant golf balls from penetrating the windows during the rainy season while they were traveling.

However, the U.S. is lagging the rest of the world in energy efficiency, so we have a lot to do, but the good news is that a lot of savings could be easily captured. I met a former consul general from Germany this week, who advised me that Germany changed it incentives to favor renewable energy. They now have so many windmills producing electricity that they had to modify the incentive program to make sure they weren’t built in areas that had no wind!

Our Congress should help accelerate the adoption of “green” technology by creating new tax incentives for adding renewable energy and cutting energy waste on our offices and homes – from giant wind farms, to solar panels on houses. We could be building solar farms in our vast deserts. By working both ways, we could have a win-win.

And if that cuts our global warming and lowers our pollution, we also get health benefits. What is there not to like about that?

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