216 Stelton Road
Piscataway NJ 08854
Green buildings are a relatively new tool in the fight against global warming and environmental degradation. Current construction practices and design features of buildings have negative impacts on the environment. The act of construction can generate run-off, new buildings create impervious surfaces which can increase the incidence of flooding, and the whole affair is energy intensive. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency buildings used 40% of the total US energy consumption in 2002. In the same year buildings used 68% of all electricity. It might not be immediately clear as to how green buildings can help combat global warming, however, buildings were responsible for 38% of all carbon emissions in 2002. Buildings are also responsible for 60% of non-industrial wastes and consume 12% of the potable water in the US, as of 2002.
Buildings use up energy, water, and take up space that could be used for other purposes and leave a footprint on the land. The idea being green building practices is to come up with a method to construct fully functional buildings that minimize the impact on the environment. To standardize the practice the United States Green Building Council has established clear guidelines and a rating system, so that we can be sure about the level of quality going into new green buildings. The five principles of green building practices are to achieve energy efficiency during operation, reduce water consumption during construction and operation, use local and or environmentally friendly building materials wherever possible, reduce waste, and to lessen the environmental footprint by picking the best plot of land to place the building, and design it so it fits in with the surrounding natural community.
The United States Green Building Council has developed a four tier rating system for newly constructed green buildings. These are from lowest to highest: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. Having a standardized rating system is vital to ensure the best possible construction techniques and uniformity across the nation. New Jersey has always been a leader on environmental issues. However, in the case of green buildings the State is behind. Currently, New Jersey is in the middle of the pack on the number of green buildings in the State. Since the legislature has taken such a proactive stance on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it makes sense to move to the forefront on green buildings.
New Jersey would see large, immediate benefits by increasing the number of newly constructed buildings being built to silver certified or above. According to the United States Green Building Council, a green building can emit 35% less carbon than a conventional building. Since the State has pledged to reduce emissions to below 1990 levels by 2020, switching to green building practices will help achieve this goal in time. Senator Smith is very committed to reducing green house gas emissions and using green buildings as a tool to reach this goal. He supports his colleagues Senator Fred H. Madden, Jr. and Loretta Weinberg who have introduced a bill that would require all new State owned buildings to be built to silver standards or better. The bill has been combined with Senator Martha Bark's bill that would included State leased buildings as well. The combined bill would also require studies to be undertaken to determine what steps could be taken on existing State buildings to bring them up to silver standard, and how much these recommendations would cost. Senator Smith and Senator Leonard Lance have introduced a bill that would set guidelines for builders and planners of affordable housing to take into account green building practices. This is great because while green buildings can be more expensive to build, they pay back on energy savings very quickly. And living in a green building will save the occupants money on heating and cooling bills, which would be very beneficial to low income people. Green buildings will be an important step towards reducing our State's greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Smith is working hard to ensure that New Jersey increases the number of green buildings we build.