By Kathy Sipple
In December President Obama announced a $4 billion initiative to increase the energy efficiency of buildings over the next two years. “Upgrading the energy efficiency of America's buildings is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution, and create good jobs right now,” Obama said in a statement.
According to the USGBC (United States Green Building Council), buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption, 13% water consumption and 15% of GDP per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity.
For businesses, a commercial building energy audit is often the first step toward sustainability. As Senior Director of Sustainability Services at Chicago’s Delta Institute, Valparaiso resident Abby Corso helps businesses identify energy-saving opportunities while pinpointing capital costs and implementation payback. Delta also offers assistance with retrofit energy efficiency improvements and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a rating system developed by the USGBC.
Jeff Eriks, Partner and Manager/LEED AP Cambridge Construction in Griffith says that it is relatively easy to integrate sustainable building practices, especially if they are planned into the design process. Some strategies include: encouraging day-lighting to minimize interior lighting loads, using high-efficiency HVAC, using bio-swales for natural management of run-off, and the list goes on. Pay-back timeframes of just 3-5 years based on cost savings are sometimes possible.
New Residential Construction and Remodeling
The recently formed Northwest Indiana Green Building Alliance focuses mainly on the residential market. Since early 2011 local area home builders, developers, subcontractors, material suppliers and industry representatives, architects, real estate professionals, energy auditors, appraisers and local conservationists and preservationists have been sharing best practices and hosting education and networking events.
Sarah Oudman of Treasure Homes in DeMotte serves as the spokesperson for NWIGBA. Her company built “The Gem” in the Village in Burns Harbor; it is the first Indiana home to receive National Association of Home Builders’ Emerald certification, the highest level for sustainable “green” building. Oudman has stated, “Education is key. Consumers will not buy what they do not value, and they do not value what they do not understand.” Education has been a major focus for NWIGBA thus far, and additional workshops are planned for 2012.
Kathy Sipple, founder and CEO of My Social Media Coach in Valparaiso, offers social media marketing training and strategic consulting services for businesses. She is also involved in organization around sustainability work through her involvement with the Valparaiso chapter of Green Drinks International and 219 GreenConnect.