The city of Tallahassee recently launched a Residential Green Building Program that city officials predict will help reduce the city's carbon footprint and stimulate the local economy.
Cynthia Barber, executive director of Tallahassee's office of Environmental Policy and Energy Resources, says an increase in green construction will provide employment opportunities for trade specialists.
"Workers, who specialize in green services, such as homebuilders and evaluators, will get more opportunities to construct green homes and carry out certifications," says Barber. "They will benefit as a result of having the opportunity to work on projects connected to this program."
Funding for the program comes from a $1.7 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the U.S. Department of Energy, $115,000 of which has been set aside to encourage the construction of green buildings. The program provides homebuilders with $1.50 per square foot for the construction of green homes. It provides the same amount of money to homeowners if they renovate their homes to meet green certifications. With a maximum allotment of $2,250 per project, city officials estimate the program can provide funding to about 50 homes.
"We limited the amount of money a single home could qualify. Larger homes tend to leave bigger carbon footprints, even if they are green certified. We want to encourage people to consider this when planning construction," says Barber.
Barber believes that green homes will help the city meet some of its environmental goals such as increasing overall energy efficiency. "We operate an electric utility, and we want to make sure that we are reducing the amount of energy we have to produce for the city, so we can delay the need to add additional energy resources," she says.
Beyond energy efficiency
The benefits of green homes extend beyond increasing energy efficiency and reducing the costs of operation, according to Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC), a nonprofit that promotes sustainable construction practices.
"Green buildings also result in improved water and indoor air quality," says Suzanne Cook, FGBC's executive director. "The materials used in green buildings also tend to be more durable and are chosen to resist problems that a home may face based on its location."
According to Cook, homes in Florida tend to be susceptible to damage caused by hurricanes, termites and fires. Green buildings are made of materials that can minimize potential damage from these forces.
FGBC has certified 2,400 homes in Florida.
Cook supports the city of Tallahassee for encouraging green building. "Getting a local government to promote green building is critical to getting consumers to participate," said Cook. "Ten percent of the green certifications FGBC has carried out this year have come from homes in Tallahassee."
Qualifying for the program
To qualify for the Residential Green Building Program, homes must be served by City of Tallahassee Utilities, and they must receive green certification from LEED, FGBC or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
City officials note that recent energy conservation initiatives have proven popular with Tallahassee residents. The Residential Green Building Program is similar to the city's ENERGY STAR Certified New and Renovated Home Program, which offers rebates to homeowners who install energy-saving appliances. City officials plan to join the two programs under the umbrella "City of Tallahassee Green Building Program," and homes will potentially be able to qualify for incentives under both initiatives.
The office of Environmental Policy and Energy Resources has received ten applications since the program commenced, and Barber expects more builders to apply for permits in the coming months.