I heard a really interesting keynote address this morning in Sacramento about how retrofitting houses to become more energy efficient can prevent global warming from flooding our coastal cities, rev the construction and banking sectors back into high gear and create a million jobs in five years. Talk about a lot of benefit from one idea!
New Mexico architect Edward Mazria was in town, arguing that the U.S. government ought to invest $21.6 billion a year for five years into making buildings more energy efficient.
Mazria is a global crusader for making houses and other buildings carbon neutral by 2030, which means their construction and operation will not add to global warming. He has founded a group called Architecture 2030 to make your house part of the solution instead of the problem.
Said Mazria: stopping the seas from rising and submerging Oakland International Airport (oh no) is not just putting in the right light bulbs, planting trees and having Wal-Mart cut its energy consumption by 20 percent over 7 years. The answer is not nuclear power and it sure as heck is not clean coal, he said, which does not exist.
The big answer is in energy-efficient houses, office buildings and stores.
Mazria said almost half the energy used in the U.S. is consumed by buildings, most of them houses. So going in and redoing them and investing in making the new ones better would pretty much save the world. Who would have thought it is so easy?
It was a message that could have warmed the heart of every environmental lobbyist in a capital town crawling with them. But that crowd was nowhere in sight. The room was filled with people who generate money putting up houses and other buildings: architects, planners, builders, local elected officials, all of them members of the Sacramento chapter of the Urban Land Institute. That is the research arm of the development industry in the United States.
You want to talk about an economic stimulus with some punch, asked Mazria? Just invest $21.6 billion in energy-efficient buildings every year for five years. Hands down, it would beat the $160 billion federal government economic stimulus plan, which begins in May by mailing out $600 and $1,200 checks.
A million new jobs in the construction industry: You better believe that drew some big applause in a town full of companies holding on by their fingernails.