With constant warnings about greenhouse gases, melting polar ice caps and the negative effects of oil drilling, green building practices are constantly being implemented in city-wide projects to lower energy usage. Office buildings and residences enjoy the majority of savings since green building materials, technology and design can halve monthly energy costs without incurring much up front cost. Financing options and government subsidies often help defray or cover what costs are incurred.
Though there may be some initial cost to retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, investing in retrofits that use green technology is valuable in the long term. For one thing, lowering global greenhouse gas emissions is economically crucial. In addition, the price of energy – particularly that supplied by oil – has risen by a substantial margin. A recent MSNBC article on a green residential building project in Fort Worth, Texas, which reported projected savings of greater than 50 per cent. Those savings are particularly impressive in light of the fact the company’s up front costs were only two per cent more than the fossil-fuel consuming norm thanks to the use of recycled materials.
Moreover, an energy reformation is necessary because there isn’t enough fossil fuel to go around. Oil companies cannot keep up with increased demand from emerging economies in South America and Asia. While the cost of crude oil was $40 a barrel in 2000, it had risen to $93 a barrel by 2011, according to Rebuilding Green, a special report by a the BlueGreen Alliance and the Economic Policy Institute.
Larger-scale projects have demonstrated remarkable reductions in energy consumption at little or no upfront cost. Johnson Control, an international green retrofitting company, took on the Empire State Building, where owners will save 40 per cent on the building’s electric bill. The U.S. General Service Administration has initiated an even larger project – Deep Retrofit Challenge – to implement energy-saving technologies in 30 federal buildings after the Obama Administration set a net-zero goal for the buildings to reach by 2030.
Other projects have been organized by cities. In Australia, the Pitt Street Mall project, Sutherland Shire, and Central Dandenong have all undergone recent transitions which have not only reduced their ecological footprint, but also created new focal points for commerce and downtime. The Adelaide Green City Program has completed numerous expansive projects, including Pilgrim Peace Park, Victoria Square, North Terrace, with solar panels installed in many of these locations. The city also started the Eco-Affordable Housing Project in Whitney Square, another development geared for long-term savings.
Australia currently has a number of strategically-minded green building subsidies, which are available for most businesses. These subsidies help drive private investment in green tech firms which create a multi-pronged effect, creating energy savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing demand and pricing for fossil fuels, developing further green building practices and funding research and development for green tech suppliers and innovators.
One of the newest trends in the field is the emergence of the energy savings performance contract (ESPC), which allows businesses to finance green tech –particularly retrofits – with no up front costs. In addition, these contracts come with long-term agreements for the green company to periodically check for ways to update buildings with new, cost-effective solutions. Payments are taken out of the money saved on energy bills. At this rate, country-wide energy consumption will see significant improvements in coming years.