Green Building Tax Credits

Residential and commercial buildings account for nearly one-third of total U.S. energy intake. Yet the impact that buildings have on the environment goes far beyond their simple energy usage. Factors such as site selection, the construction process, building materials and air emissions from homes and commercial buildings all affect the environment in unique ways.

“Green,” or “high-performance,” building takes energy efficiency to a new level. Using a comprehensive approach, green building creates environmentally sustainable, healthy and productive, and economical buildings through new construction, major renovations or additions, or minor upgrading. Practitioners use wide-ranging techniques such as on-site renewable energy generation, energy efficiency through innovative wastewater technologies, or siting near public transit in order to minimize building occupants’ impact on the surrounding environment. These techniques have been shown to reduce building energy costs by 20-50% and water usage by at least 50% outdoors and 30% indoors.[i]

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has set national standards for green buildings through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The most commonly accepted and widely used green building standard, LEED awards credits to structures in six categories: sustainable siting, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental air quality, and innovation in design. Each structure achieves a LEED certification level (‘certified,’ ‘silver,’ ‘gold,’ or ‘platinum’) based on how many points it scores in each of these categories.

LEED standards are currently available or under development in a number of areas including new commercial construction and new renovation projects, existing building operations, homes, and neighborhood development. For further information on the most recent LEED standards, click HERE.

Green building is not only good for the environment, but for the economy as well. Adopting green building policies in combination with public-private partnerships with labor can lead to the creation of high-quality jobs for trade unionists such as Sheet Metal Workers, Electrical Workers and Glaziers. For a list of the types of innovative, complex technologies that require high-level skills and training in a variety of trades, click HERE.

The increased energy efficiency of green buildings pays for itself in lower heating and electric bills, reduced water and waste, lower operations and maintenance costs, and enhanced occupant productivity and health.[ii] Green buildings can carry high initial costs, however. States from Massachusetts to Oregon have attempted to offset these capital costs by proposing legislation offering tax incentives to individuals and businesses that build green. Each state’s tax incentive program operates differently, but all offer tax incentives on a sliding scale that increases tax benefits as the LEED certification level rises.

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