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Currently, going green is largely accomplished through offering a series of legal incentives to businesses and clients who work together to use sustainable practices while constructing green buildings. One of the first major federal bills to implement such measures was the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Amendments and additional provisions were made in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 as well as the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, with more comprehensive reform made in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Many of the provisions in these acts offer tax credits or cash grants to businesses and consumers who invest in sustainable buildings and forms of energy. For example, the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit encourages companies to purchase new equipment that sustainably generates energy for the company’s buildings and operations.
Legislators’ efforts during the 111th Congress to promote green building also included the Green Affordable Housing Act of 2009, the Green Communities Act and the GREEN Act of 2010. These bills sought to provide financial assistance for green retrofits to federally subsidized housing projects, grants for community greening programs, and to encourage development of renewable energy for residential and commercial buildings. Although none of these bills survived to become law, they may resurface.
Additionally, the 112th Congress is already considering other legislation, such as the Heat Island and Smog Reduction Act (that targets federal buildings for certain green improvements) and the Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act (that would provide funding to help American clean energy businesses export their products). Neither of these bills specifically provides direct incentives for green construction, but their promotion of environmentally conscientious renovation and energy use bode well for future legislative trends.
These kinds of incentives help defray the higher initial costs of a green building investment, making the long-term environmental and economic benefits more attractive. One major reason why offering legal incentives is so important is that one of the largest impediments to green building is the up-front cost associated with newer technologies, materials and building methods. Installing solar panels that are capable of powering a home is significantly more costly than using traditional sources of energy. However, a recent study suggests that an additional two percent investment can bring a tenfold return throughout the life of the building.
Despite the long-term financial benefits of such projects, the greater initial cost deters many consumers from even considering them. However, with the legislative boost of more programs offering tax credits and cash grants and setting an example by employing green construction in government buildings, the prevalence of green construction may be expected to continue growing.
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