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Growing Greener Buildings

December 10, 2006
Editorial By Courant

Last session, the General Assembly took a step - and a very timid one at that - toward joining the national green-building movement when it set energy and environmental standards for state-funded building projects. But with today's soaring energy costs and mounting concern about the role of carbon emissions in global warming, lawmakers must go much further.

The standards apply to new building construction costing more than $5 million and renovations worth at least $2 million. Yet the legislation specifically exempts Connecticut's school buildings, most of which were built when heating oil was cheap and which are today considered among the least energy-efficient in the nation.

The exemption was short-sighted, foolhardy and wrong.

Timidity is something Connecticut can no longer afford - literally. Statewide, taxpayers spent more than $124 million heating school buildings during the 2004-05 year, according to the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University. Last year, that figure was projected to rise to $160 million.

Higher efficiency standards make sense for commercial and residential buildings, too. Buildings use 41 percent of the country's energy and generate 43 percent of our carbon dioxide output.

Studies show that energy-efficient construction costs about the same or slightly more than regular construction. By cutting energy use up to 50 percent, however, owners of buildings reap huge long-term savings - as much as $50 to $65 per square foot over 20 years, according to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

Connecticut has several shining examples of such initiatives: the Mark Twain House Museum's visitor and education center in Hartford, Pfizer's clinical research building in New Haven, Bristol Myers Squibb Co.'s offices in Wallingford, Yale University's engineering research building and UConn's Burton Family Football Complex in Storrs.

Connecticut's elected leaders must show the same boldness of vision. Governors in California, New Jersey, New York and Maine have used their executive powers to implement tough construction standards for public buildings. Gov. M. Jodi Rell should do no less.

During the next legislative session, the Connecticut Green Building Council is expected to press for a law (as it has now for several years) requiring new construction and renovations costing at least $1 million and using at least 25 percent state money to meet energy-efficiency standards called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Lawmakers should finally pass such legislation.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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