Commercial and residential buildings consume one-third of the energy used in the United States. They use two-thirds of all electricity.
About a third of carbon dioxide emissions and other emissions that harm air quality and contribute to global warming are emitted by buildings. They generate waste during construction and operation.
So it’s satisfying to see green building construction gathering momentum in Maine, albeit slowly.
Right now there are roughly a dozen buildings in Maine, either built or in the planning stages, that qualify for national green building certification, thanks in part to Gov. Baldacci’s 2003 decision to incorporate such thinking in new and renovated state buildings.
The private sector has been more hesitant to jump on board, but volatile energy costs may make green buildings’s reduced energy bills a big winner in the market.
One example is a 44,000-square foot office building on Portland’s Sewall Street, a future medical office that’s on track to win certification from a national green building advocacy.
Research shows that building green is good for business. Front-end investments in preferred construction and materials often pay for themselves within a few years, advocates say. One study found that the financial benefits of green design are between $50 and $70 per square foot, over 10 times the added cost of building green.
The benefits include reduced energy bills, lower water usage, and decreased waste generation. The study also found that operations and maintenance costs were lower, and that workers were more productive and healthier.
Energy conservation is the quickest and cheapest way to reduce energy bills and increase the reliability of New England’s stressed grid. Encouraging green building is just a smart thing to do.