10.24.2008

Green Policy: Public Reform's Affect on Sustainable Development

With the United States' economy in shambles, it is natural to believe that green design will be left on the back burner in favor of financing affordable housing. The recent 700 billion dollar bailout seems like a great resource for enticing investors back to the real estate market, simply because banks are going to have more money to put into projects. Despite an increase of funds, this answer is not beneficial for developers. Instead, existing loans are being purchased by the federal administration, leaving institutions to be more cautious when approving future loans. This lack of monetary supply will be coupled with a low demand for new houses. In order to fund the bailout, an increase in taxes may be implemented and if so, these middle-class taxpayers, who account for the majority of real estate's demand, would be left with less money to invest. Still, the bailout is only one example among many that affect the viability of the real estate business as failed sub-prime mortgages have forced many homeowners into foreclosure, which adds to the economy's instability. The dwindling market notwithstanding, sustainability in design is being strongly encouraged via recent public policy changes.

Recent government procedures promote using alternative energy sources for fiscal compensation. One of the less publicized reforms of the bailout states that tax credits will be given to developers, companies, and home owners who produce wind or solar energy on site. For instance, the installation of a solar panel system can yield a credit of up to 75,000 dollars. Policies like this are intended to increase demand for environmentally sound services while helping to stabilize parts of the economy. For example, JA Solar and SunPower stocks have remained relatively consistent during recent fluctuation in the market, which can be attributed to the government's backing of solar energy. Federal reforms have created "440,000 permanent jobs and [added] $325 billion in private investment in the U.S. solar energy sector," according to Solar Energy Industry Association President, Rhone Resch. In a similar manner, the credits will financially secure wind energy companies. Many businesses have already started to make changes in order to take advantage of the codes. Chipotle Mexican Grill is opening a new franchise in Gurnee, Illinois with an on-site wind turbine (see rendering above left). In addition to the tax break, 10% of the structure's energy needs will be generated by wind power at no cost after deployment. Supplementing wind power, only Energy-Star appliances and efficient bathroom fixtures are being installed. The company is seeking LEED approval (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is the United States Green Building Council's highest recognition for sustainable structures. Chipotle believes the concept will not only attract customers, but also support a lifestyle change in general. Even though the economic situation has prompted action, the controversial bailout reveals mixed results for development. Chipotle is able to act on the new regulations because of its size, but for the average family, these actions have made it more difficult to finance a loan, let alone spend on green design.

Economic hardships have also stimulated creative thinking for using bionomic strategies to avoid crisis. Blogger Van Jones of The Huffington Post argues for what he calls a "green bailout." According to Jones, following the recent Wall Street rescue with an environmentally friendly version will be an effective tool in moving out of recession. "[With a] $350 billion investment, we absolutely and positively could retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy--and create millions of new jobs, in the process," he asserts. Unlike the arbitrary amount of 700 billion, Jones claims that his plan is calculated and results are certain. A series of reports from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Political Economy Research Institute explain that investing in sustainable business can create over three million imperishable jobs during these sensitive years. Jones uses these studies to advance the argument in his recently published book, The Green-Collar Economy, which analyzes this denouement. With only half as much money as was allotted to the bailout, an undeniable economic resolution is plausible. Other ideas incorporate different fields of sustainability. Specific to real estate, Green for All is proposing a Clean Energy Corps, whose mission is to dress the nation's infrastructure and buildings with sources of clean energy (see diagram right). Through creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, Clean Energy Corps would be able to promote sustainable design while deterring the economy from collapsing. Policies such as these will aid in resolving market crises rather than providing a quick fix. Additional billion-dollar investments are required to implement such programs; however, the ends justify the means. The nation is currently in need of new industries to preserve its financial system and the realm of real estate offers an obvious solution. By investing in environmental development programs, multiple problems will be reduced cohesively. In contempt of the media's generally negative depiction of the economy, its state is presenting new incentives for citizens to go green.

1 comment:

Josh Tom said...

Jason, I was very impressed with depth and overall readability of this post. It was immediately clear to me that you are passionate and knowledgeable about your material and that you took the time to analyze the different aspects and possibilities of new energy proposals in the face of the current economic crisis. You varied your sentence structure quite nicely, making the post interesting and easy to read. At the same time, I enjoyed exploring your many links that were interspersed nicely throughout the piece, and I felt that your images served you well, especially the diagram on the right side. It was aesthetically pleasing and provided the reader with helpful information if he/she was interested in discovering more about the actual process. I also liked that you explored a variety of sources, explaining in great detail their different ideas and then analyzing those ideas on your own. I found this post especially interesting because I know quite little about the subject matter, and had not previously considered the implications for the energy sector that bailout would have.

There was very little here to critique, and if anything, I would say that I had a few questions regarding the content. I know that you somewhat address this in your first paragraph, but I was wondering whether or not you thought that the current economic crisis would have a more severe effect on the possibility of expensive alternative energy projects. You mention that sustainability in design is stronger than ever, and go on to provide examples of certain projects, such as the Chipotle franchise opening up in Illinois (which I found interesting and impressive). I wonder if you think, however, that plans for projects in the future that may be more energy efficient but also significantly more expensive might be put on hold, or whether you thought that the market for sustainable energy would continue to develop regardless. In any case, I really enjoyed this post. Nice work.

 
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