Obama Pushes Better Buildings and HomeStar

February 3, 2011

Speaking at Pennsylvania State University today, President Obama announced the Better Buildings Initiative, a new program designed to make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade.  The President also stressed his continued commitment to passing HomeStar legislation to encourage residential energy saving upgrades. 

According to the White House, the President is calling on Congress to redesign the current tax deduction for commercial building upgrades, transforming the current deduction to a credit that is more generous and that will encourage building owners and real estate investment trusts to retrofit their properties. The changes are designed to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 and save busiensses $40 billion.

The Administration's plan also includes a Small Business Administration effort to encourage existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote new energy efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses. The President’s budget will also propose a new pilot program through the Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings.

The President is promoting a "Race to Green" initiative to encourage state and municipal governments to streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects. The President’s budget will propose new competitive grants to states and/or local governments that alter codes, streamline standards, encourage upgrades and attract private sector investment.

The initiative also calls for training the next generation of commercial building technology workers; Using existing authorities, the Administration is currently working to implement a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy efficiency performance, launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the successful Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Commerce, and providing more workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations, the White House reports.

The Better Buildings Initiative is designed to complement the initiatives the President has already launched for government and residential buildings, including the $20 billion in funding for building energy efficiency in ARRA, including weatherization programs.

Industry Support
One industry group–the Window & Door Manufacturers Association–has already expressed its support for the President's new initiative.  "WDMA is pleased with the Administration's renewed focus on job creation through energy efficiency," says Michael O'Brien, WDMA president. "We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to craft a program that will create meaningful incentives for building owners to improve their properties' energy performance."

Noting President Obama's continued support for HomeStar, O'Brien adds, "Encouraging homeowners to upgrade windows, doors and skylights is an important strategy to reduce energy use, and WDMA continues to advocate for a bipartisan and common sense energy policy that emphasizes cost-effective building efficiency measures. WDMA will continue to be at the forefront of the issue."