Go green and save green, or how using less energy helps Michigan municipalities

Across Michigan, local governments are continually asked to do more with less. Over the past decade, Michigan politicians have taken $6.2 billion in revenue-sharing payments earmarked for local communities and used it to plug holes in the state budget. That means less money for police, fire and other vital local services.

It puts local leaders in a tough spot. But there are sure-fire ways that we can save money regardless of what happens in Lansing – by making sure that public buildings are more energy-efficient. Every year, Americans lose $130 billion from leaky, inefficient buildings. In public buildings, those dollars come straight from the pockets of taxpayers and result in cuts to much needed services and programs.

It’s time that Michigan gets serious about building better buildings and spending our residents’ money more wisely.

Simply put, green building techniques work and the return on investment in the long run is significant.

Organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) help to ensure that green projects follow best practices. USGBC’s LEED certification program, the most widely used and widely recognized green building program in the world, is designed to save money by making buildings more efficient and cost-effective to run. After earning LEED Gold certification in 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s headquarters slashed energy and water consumption to save $3.5 million per year. That’s just one federal LEED building of over 1,000 buildings!

The cost-savings potential applies at state and local levels too. Cleveland offers a tax abatement program that provides for the temporary elimination of 100 percent of the increase in real estate property tax in order to stimulate development in the city. In order to be eligible for the abatement, projects must meet LEED silver status. The program, which went into effect in 2009, had an immediate impact: Of the 929 housing units that received tax abatements in 2010, 338 met the new green building standard.

In my community of East Lansing, we have passed a ground-breaking ordinance that requires new municipal buildings receive LEED certification, as well as private developments which receive municipal incentives over 15 percent of the total project cost.

As part of these green efforts, we refitted our Grove Street parking garage with LED lights, a move which is projected to save us $10,000 per year – and we are currently on pace to meet or exceed that amount. Two more garages are scheduled to be retrofitted this year with annual savings projected to be $23,800 and $30,400, respectively.

LEED is also a job creator. The value of green building has seen major growth from $10 billion in 2005, to an estimated $200+ billion by 2016. It’s estimated that 55 percent of all commercial and institutional construction will be green by 2016. By encouraging green building, local communities are positioning themselves as leaders in an explosive industry. With our manufacturing know-how, Michigan is particularly well suited to excel in this field.

Green building incentives save money. They create jobs. They inspire better buildings and better communities. At a time when municipalities continue to be asked to do more with less, I hope to see more Michigan communities follow East Lansing’s lead and implement healthy, responsible and efficient building practices.

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Sun, 08/23/2015 - 9:46am
Keep it up, Nathan! Glad to know my tax dollars are being well-spent based on futuristic thinking and LEED initiatives. Going green makes sense.
Sun, 08/23/2015 - 10:36am
I have heard that comment "doing more with less" made on several occasions at our Township Board Meeting. But that has not stopped them from securing more raises for staff and elected officials. One thing of particular interest is the pension plan increase from 10% to 14%. To view the details visit my website www.wacousta.org and view the June 2015 monthly meeting, my public comment,and information I collected on the cost increases. Dale Westrick, Concerned Taxpayer!!!
Mon, 08/24/2015 - 10:54am
"Doing more with less" is often used in the context of fewer people doing more work, my experience is the amount and quality of work goes downhill as a result.
Renae Hesselink
Sun, 08/23/2015 - 1:54pm
Thank you for getting this message out there! We need more people sharing these positive results!
James T. Weiner
Tue, 09/22/2015 - 12:05pm
I strongly believe that energy efficiency and sustainability will bring major cost savings in the long run and that going green is the way to go. However, I have issues with a government certifying a single way to go green -- such as requiring LEED certification. Yes LEED has got its place.. as an independent third party oversight of energy efficiency building practices. But LEED is still basically oversight. Unfortunately LEED can also add a lot of cost to construction (I have seen estimates of up to 10% extra) -- cost that may not be needed with appropriate design and specifications. Further, the EPA is starting to certify green building practices.. which I believe will come without the associated costs of LEED certification. See generally http://www.energystar.gov/buildings.