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High-Performing Buildings Offer Solutions for Virginia's Climate Action Challenge

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The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to transforming the way our buildings are designed, constructed and operated through LEED — the top third-party verification system for sustainable...

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The state of Virginia continues to up the ante in its energy efficiency initiatives.

Earlier this summer, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took a bold step toward combating climate change in the Commonwealth. To reduce carbon pollution from the state’s power plants, Gov. McAuliffe signed Executive Order 57, setting in motion a process to accelerate efforts to improve energy efficiency and expand the state’s clean energy portfolio.

The Commonwealth is off to a running start, recently announcing the issuing of permits for two utility-scale solar facilities that will power nearly 6,000 homes. However, when it comes to helping residents achieve the benefits of living in energy-efficient homes to help achieve carbon reduction goals, Virginia’s leaders need not look further than the state’s own Housing Development Authority (VHDA).

In recent years, VHDA has implemented some of the nation’s most impressive standards for energy efficiency in affordable housing, relying on third-party green building standards like LEED® and EarthCraft. The Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech found that over the past five years, every applicant receiving highly sought-after Low Income Housing Tax Credits managed by VHDA have been committed to meeting these two green building standards.

The payback has been huge. Research examining 15 recently constructed or rehabbed apartment communities throughout the state built to these higher standards were found to use 40 percent less energy than housing built to existing code requirements. The average tenant in these communities saved 464 kilowatt hours of energy per month, equaling $54 per month on utility bills—a savings of over $600 per year. For seniors and families struggling to make ends meet, savings from energy efficiency is a lifeline.

With more than 1,000 LEED-certified projects encompassing nearly 135 million square feet in the commonwealth, Virginia businesses and residents recognize the benefits of LEED. By allowing lower utility expenses, reduced operations and maintenance costs and third-party verification providing assurance, LEED is helping Virginia scale up and enjoy the benefits of environmentally sustainable design. As the state looks for additional policies to drive energy efficiency even further across the economy, LEED offers a proven tool.

by Nick Brousse

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