Illinois Takes A Step Toward Carbon Neutral Buildings by 2030

Date: 6 Jul 2007 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

On June 28, 2007, the Illinois Senate and House approved a joint resolution that adopts a policy that calls for carbon-neutral state buildings by 2030. They are the first state to address this particular green building initiative, a derivative of the Architecture 2030 Challenge, through a legislature. New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson adopted a similar but weaker policy by executive order in January of 2006.

The Illinois’ measure (SJR0027), proposes that all new and renovated State of Illinois “shall be designed to and achieve a minimum delivered fossil-fuel greenhouse gas (GHS) emitting energy consumption performance standard of one-half the U.S. average for that building type as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the EPA’s Target Finder.”

The fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings shall be increased to:

60% in 2010
70% in 2015
80% in 2020
90% in 2025
Carbon-neutral by 2030 (meaning new buildings will use no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate)

Democratic Energy notes that outside of the fact that the Ilinois initiative has no force of law behind it, the Illinois’ version does not include a provision outlined by Architecture 2030 that requires energy consumption to be reduced in other buildings to offset the emissions from the remaining energy use in the new building.

The Illinois resolution also does not clarify how purchasing renewable energy or certified renewable credits will factor into offsetting a new building’s carbon footprint. Under Architecture 2030 standards, only 20% of the emissions can be mitigated through purchasing carbon offsets.

Founded by architect Edward Mazria, the Architecture 2030 challenge is committed to lessening the amount of energy consumed by buildings in America. Buildings account for 40 percent of all energy usage in the United States, the most of any sector. This initiative has gained most of its momentum through executive orders by mayor’s in the cities of Seattle, Albuquerque, Chicago, and Miami.

While the primary goal of Architecture 2030 is to reduce the carbon footprint, the reported fiscal benefits may be the most persuasive reason cities and states are jumping on board. According to a study performed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, buildings employing green standards save between $50-$70 per square foot. The savings amount to 10 times the upfront premium of building greener.


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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.