In our ongoing periodic series concerning the best ways to use ARRA funds from the Obama Administration’s recovery package to green existing buildings and to build the next generation of green infrastructure, we turn to numbers 8 and 7 on the list (please see our Archives for previous entries).
No. 8: ‘Get Buildings on the Right Track â€“ Retroâ€Commission your Buildings’
“Critical to optimizing the intended design of any building is ensuring that systems are designed, installed, functionally tested, and capable of being operated and maintained to perform as intended. The retroâ€commissioning process calibrates building systems for optimum performance and identifies opportunities for upgrades.”
Retro-commissioning a building means adjusting and improving the infrastructure of a standing building to meet the guidelines and expectations of the(LEED) Green Building Rating Systemâ„¢. The system rates homes, private buildings, and public/government complexes along a number of criteria pertinent to the building’s age and uses – all with the goal of reducing the carbon footprint of the structure in a self-sustaining manner. Many web pages devoted to the LEED program give pride-of-place to the work undertaken by the , where educational buildings are receiving particular focus.
Maryland is not to be left out though (for an ongoing list & commentary on regional ‘greening’ projects, see the Baltimore Sun’s B’MoreGreen), as numerous schools and buildings have been retrofitted to attain LEED certification at various levels. The ages of these buildings range over the previous century, so retro-commissioning, LEED Certification, and a smaller carbon footprint can be within reach of almost any building in the region.
No. 7: ‘Leverage and Extend Recovery Dollars with a Revolving Loan Fund’
“State & local governments as well as institutions & foundations are recognizing the power of the â€œrevolving loan fundâ€ (RLF) to finance energy efficiency and green building measures in a sustainable way. When used to finance investments in green building and efficiency, the resulting operational cost savings from greener, more efficient buildings pays back the fund.”
Grants and gifts can launch building projects, but it is ongoing upkeep of the physical plant that will make the difference in lowering dependency on fossil fuels. RLFs serve as a means to get long-term loans to bigger projects, and the loans are designed to be self-serving: The loan pays for improvements and certifications that save fuel and maintenance costs, and some of the savings are plowed back into the loan repayment (which can then allow ARRA funds to support other projects!). The loans are channeled via the Department of Energy through bothand local governments. Community organizations and lobbying groups might find influencing local leaders the best way to ensure loans are taken for local projects.
We will be moving into the top six ideas over the next week or so.