Written by: Roger Platt, Senior Vice President, Global Policy & Law at the U.S. Green Building Council
The business case for building market-rate green buildings is getting stronger every day. That is fully understood by the leaders in the green building movement attending Greenbuild’s Affordable Homes and Sustainable Communities Summit on Oct. 21, 2014, in New Orleans, LA. But what appeals to the troublemaker in me, and perhaps all of us, is the equally strong conviction that the next frontier in the green building movement is bringing green to everyone — regardless of socioeconomic status. So how do we keep the business case solid while exploring this new frontier?
Sustainable communities create opportunity
Certainly, sustainable communities, built one green building at a time, create opportunities for our neighbors with the highest level of burden trying to make ends meet, while making communities stronger and more resilient for everyone.
In the words of William Gibson “The future is now, it just isn’t well distributed.” Case in point, the Jonathan Rose Companies’ successful “Paseo Verde,” a recently completed sustainable community, has garnered international attention. Rose, a visionary leader in for-profit real estate development, points out that this LEED ND Platinum project is mixed-income with about half affordable units and half market rate. It’s serving the Temple University population on the market-rate side, and the local Philadelphia community on the affordable side — and serving, really, as a bridge in that neighborhood. Now, to make sure the “future” is better distributed we need to push for 1000 more “Paseo Verde” inspired projects.
At the Summit, USGBC and our friends in the environmental justice, public health, social equity, and business communities are convening a robust conversation about making sustainable communities and healthy, energy-efficient affordable housing a reality.
What is different this time is that we are taking seriously the memorable words of USGBC board member and South Bronx community leader Majora Carter who has said: “You don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one.” Majora was named one of Fast Company’s 100 most creative people in business for a reason. Participants in the Summit will enjoy the unique opportunity to talk directly with her and other community-based leaders about transformative solutions to simultaneously address public health, poverty and climate change adaptation.
Whether you’re a policy wonk, a private sector guru, a community or health activist, or “just” a community member wanting to pay it forward… Join us as we vision and share radical new ways to bring green to everyone.
For the policy wonks
- At the summit we will explore policy developments opening up new financial doors to develop sustainable communities and green affordable housing. At the top of the list is the recent announcement from EPA that for the first time ENERGY STAR has a tool specifically tailored to multi-family projects. The implications of the new ENERGY STAR tool is hard to overstate for financiers and for green rating systems like LEED. Baselining and benchmarking of residential multi-family buildings is well behind that of non-residential structures, but the combination of the new ENERGY STAR program and local and state benchmarking ordinances ensures an unprecedented focus on energy efficient multi-family homes.
- Also, creating some buzz recently is the announcement by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of a National Disaster Resilience Competition making $1 billion available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years. The competition will financially support innovative resilience projects to better prepare communities for future extreme weather events – providing a key opportunity for these hard-hit communities to become more sustainable. Additionally, with the US Department of Agriculture, HUD has proposed more stringent energy efficiency requirements for new housing it insures, financially assists or guarantees.
For the private sector gurus
- At the summit we will tap into the trends that are driving the burgeoning business proposition that green homes projects present to investors. The UNC Center for Community Capital and Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), in their 2013 study “Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks” conclude that energy efficient homes have a significantly reduced risk of mortgage default. Just as exciting is the fact that appraisers are now considering energy efficiency in valuing a home, which can be directly used by lenders to allow responsibly higher loan to value ratios [Sandra K. Adomatis, Valuing High Performance Housing, in The Appraisal Journal (2010)]. These important developments could make it easier for buyers from all backgrounds and economic status to purchase energy-efficient homes.
- We are also thrilled to again work with Enterprise Community Partners – a remarkable economic development organization and an indispensible player in green affordable housing sector – as an advisor to this Summit. They have invested $2 Billion in the development and preservation of green, healthy and affordable homes, with more than $150 million in the Gulf Coast for the production of 6400 affordable housing units. In fact, just prior to the Summit, key members of the USGBC and Enterprise communities will be meeting to see how we can accelerate investment in green affordable housing and sustainable communities.
For the community and health activists
- Antwi Akom, an assistant professor of Urban Sociology at San Francisco State, will speak to real life concerns of residents of communities struggling to create a better place to live. His writings on diverse topics including “Eco-Apartheid” are not for the faint of heart. In this work he focuses on linking environmental health to educational outcomes and layers in the role of the green economy in facilitating pathways out of poverty.
- We are honored to have the U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, to close out the Summit’s discussions. He will He recently concluded that recognizing “the health of effects of every space and building and seeking to foster health is a critical next step for the building professions. “Architects” he declared “are public health workers… In asking ‘What are we building?’ we are also asking, ‘What’s the impact on the community’s health?’”
- Also joining us will be chapter leaders from USGBC’s extensive nation-wide chapter network. They can provide local insight into all these issues and help get out the word to every state across the country.