Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Green Tax Credits Available in 2009

As part of the economic bailout, Congress has included some energy efficiency tax credits for homes and businesses. Here is a brief run-down. Check with your tax preparer for the details on how to take advantage of these.

--Purchase of hybrid car or SUV $250-$3,150 depending on vehicle weight and fuel economy.
--Purchase of heat pump or central air conditioner $300. Purchase of furnace or boiler $150. Only certain Energy Star products qualify.
--Replacement windows up to $200. All Energy Star windows qualify.
--Insulation and sealing up to $500-installation must meet building code.
--Ground source heat pump up to $2,000. Only Energy Star models qualify.

Thanks to Dawn Killough of Green Building for this information.

Contact me for a walk-through assessment of your home or business to start saving money on energy costs. These kinds of improvements start paying for themselves the day they are completed and contribute to overall sustainability as well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration and the Green Building Academy--a Double Dose of Inspiration

Inauguration Day--never before have over 2 million Americans come to Washington to stand in freezing weather for hours to celebrate a new President. Barack Obama, though, inspires people to do out-of-the-ordinary things. I have watched on TV many of the Presidential inaugurations in my lifetime. The one from the past that kept coming to mind was John Kennedy's--the last time until now that we have had a truly gifted leader emerge at the right time to take on the enormous problems the country faces. And of course, I was reminded of Dr. King's dream of freedom and equality for all citizens. Symbolism became reality when President Obama was sworn in.

He has called upon every citizen to be part of a new "era of responsibility" to each other, our communities and country, and the planet. His challenge to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the remaking of America", saying "we are ready to lead" once again is exactly the attitude that is needed in these times.

This remaking is already underway here in Sonoma County. I participated in a meeting of the Advisory Committee for the Green Building and Design Academy at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa yesterday as well. A former client--for whom I built a solar-powered house seven years ago--teaches there and initiated this unique program. It has 30 sophomores, more than half of whom are "at risk" academically, socially or economically.

After only one semester in the program, these kids have become passionate about learning because they see a future for themselves working in Green technology and business. Some want to be hands-on technicians, retrofitting existing buildings for energy-efficiency or installing solar systems. Others have already set their sights toward higher education to learn marketing, engineering, construction management or computer science, all with a Green emphasis.

Some of these students who could barely express themselves last fall now go out to speak publicly before adult community groups telling about their reasons for getting involved, their personal difficulties in school in the past, and their new plans for the future. This program is the only one of its kind and I am thrilled to be a part of it. It is evolving spontaneously in response to a real need and is a guidepost to a hopeful future.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Green Building Creates Jobs, Saves Energy and Money

That's the message that the U.S. Green Building Council has been advocating to President-Elect Obama's transition team. This organization (which has lead the national green building movement) developed the LEED standards for greening buildings to improve energy-efficiency, resource conservation, and indoor air quality. On-going talks with the transition's energy and environment group have resulted in the new administration placing a high priority on programs that will improve government buildings and schools as well as create jobs. The White House itself will undergo green building renovation to point the way.

This is a ray of hope that the upcoming federal economic stimulus, aimed at dealing with the present financial crisis, will include elements that will not only circulate dollars but also promote positive change for the environment. Who can argue with the need for healthier schools and more energy-efficient public buildings?

On an individual level, nearly every existing home, business or workplace could be "greened up" to improve its energy performance and promote a healthier indoor environment. Change of any kind starts at home, at the micro level, doing what we can with what we have. As a Certified Green Building Professional, I can help you develop your "to do list" to get started (in the words of David Johnston) "changing the world one room at a time".