Monday, October 29, 2007

Green Buildings

While reading, I noticed a couple of housing policies that stood out as having a high potential for successful application in the United States. Throughout the course we have talked about the importance of changing mindsets. I believe the difficulty of achieving this can be overcome by building on the values and practices Americans currently hold dear. For instance, there is a strong tradition of competition in this country, one that would aid in the implementation of a program like the green house numbers mentioned in Beatly. The push for green living is starting to catch on in the states, and companies are beginning to boast about the sustainability of their products and fair practices. Why not take this to the next level and have businesses compete through their headquarters buildings? I could see the Baltimore Legg Mason building or the Wachovia headquarters revamping in order to obtain a green plaquard- especially if they would receive the type of media and governement attention that takes place in Europe. Government buildings leading this act would also be important. For example, the Ravens stadium is owned by the Maryland Stadium Authority. If stadium patrons and viewers at home were aware of the fact that the stadium is powered by solar panels, then chances are that would get them to be a little more consious about how they get their energy (and having an institution like a football team going green would help to dispell the myth that environmentalism is only advocated by liberals).

I really liked the idea of green mortgages and bonds as well. Rather than our government spending money directly to install green systems for commercial buildings or private homes, it is simply forgoing the tax revenue they normally receive on investment earnings (which is a strategy used in a number of different community revitalization programs- ie, tax credits for restoring a historical building). Plus, people love taking advantage of tax free oportunities- my dad legitimately gets excited about donating our old clothing and recreation equipment to Salvation Army because he gets to write them off when he does our taxes. If we can emphasize the long-term benefits of installing energy-saving devices combined with the opportunties to take advantage of tax breaks, we can be a lot more successful in marketing these tools to your run-of-the-mill suburban home owner.

Of course, while these policies have major implications for getting the upper middle class and business elite involved in sustainability, they can also be used to generate social justice as well. For instance, as a part of the green mortgages program, the government could stipulate that a certain percentage of funds must be reinvested into affordable housing projects, low-income neighborhoods, etc.

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