As the federal government prepares for the presidential transition in next month, it will face challenges in dealing with increasingly complex issues and new directives from the Obama administration and the new Congress, especially concerning energy issues. A new report from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provides a potential road map for addressing the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources and its greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy.
“Buildings are often overlooked as an opportunity to reduce energy consumption and offer an excellent opportunity to achieve national energy goals,” says ASHRAE president Bill Harrison. Buildings are responsible for 40% of the United States’ energy consumption—more than transportation and industry—and represent 38% of the U.S.’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Our citizens spend approximately 90% of their time indoors—many of them in schools and office buildings. The entire U.S. construction industry employs an estimated 10 million people including manufacturing, and with increased focus on improving energy efficiency within buildings, that number can be expected to rise.
ASHRAE’s report provides detailed recommendations on shaping energy policy. Some of the suggested provisions include:
- Energy Policy and Climate Change: Require annual measurements of building energy use, and provide funding and direction for data collection and analysis regarding energy use in buildings. ASHRAE has recently launched an effort to develop a domestic building energy labeling program that will provide owners, operators, and occupants information on their buildings’ energy consumption.
- Federal Incentives: The report offers ideas for government incentives for energy related activities, particularly commissioning, re-commissioning, and retro-commissioning; education and training for operations and maintenance personnel; realistic depreciation schedules; and long term tax deductions.
- Research and Development: ASHRAE recommends increased research and development efforts in the built environment, particularly for on and off site renewable energy, net-zero energy building technologies, and increased governmental support for the private sector.
- Federal Agency Activities: ASHRAE recommends providing adequate financial and technical resources to federal agencies to meet new energy requirements and promote the use of tools such as building information modeling and integrated design for federal construction projects.
- Education: The report stresses the importance of supporting educational programs focused on student competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, and providing funding for “green-collar” job training programs.