Green initiatives are a driving force in the Obama Administration’s economic plans. The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is expected to create 3.5 million green economy jobs over the next two years. While federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the General Services Administration (GSA) have increased budgets and revitalized green mandates to power the Administration’s sustainable agenda, there are signs that the private side is getting on board.
With increased public and private commitments to green initiatives, awareness of sustainable design polices and practices have become paramount to the success of the green movement. Since the emergence of the green movement, sustainable design has remained a random compilation of national policy interspersed with local applications.
The Obama Administration is applying standardized third-party sustainable fundamentals to federal projects and carrying those fundamentals to state and local levels. Effective sustainable design addresses three basic concepts:
· The reduction of negative factors on the environment
· The reduction of negative health and comfort factors upon building occupants
· The increase of building efficiency and performance
Like all federal agencies, the GSA is determined to minimize the bottom-line impact during the implementation of sustainable design for all the agency’s projects. In the past, the private sector has been wary of the cost of green design and construction. GSA maintains that increased construction costs related to effective sustainable design are more than offset by the reduction in operating costs and specifically in reduced energy and waste costs.
To achieve cost-effective sustainable design, the federal government has set forth a six-step process that the Obama Administration hopes the private sector will utilize.
· Site selection and preparation
· Utilization of building operating systems that minimize the use of non-renewable products
· Insistence on the use of sustainable building products
· Address the preservation and conservation of water
· Improve the building interior environment to the benefit of the occupants
· Implement environmentally responsible operational and maintenance practices
Accordingly, the GSA has received a $5.5 billion budget allocation for green projects. The EPA has finally received supplements to its dwindling budget. The Agency’s budget was trimmed each of the past 8 years, resulting in a 27% cumulative decrease.
The new $10.5 billion budget includes a $3.9 billion allocation for improvements to the country’s water infrastructure. Specifically, the agency will address 1000 clean water projects and 700 drinking water initiatives ranging from, San Francisco to Chesapeake Bay and including major projects in The Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.
The acknowledged universal and primary consideration in sustainable design has become the carbon footprint. The recognition of the carbon impact offers sustainable designers tangible criteria upon which every product, every building and every green initiative can be evaluated and promoted. In fact, the future of sustainable design and the development of carbon regulation will not only drive sustainable design but will unify the private and public sector’s sustainable focus.