AIA Sustainability

What Are the Benefits of Going Green?

Shifting American society toward sustainability requires both the "carrot and the stick" to make systemic change. Economic incentives can help individuals, businesses, and communities see personal benefit that makes the important first step toward new ways of thinking and acting. The following key points link resources that illustrate some of the Advocacy efforts that are taking place across the U.S. to promote a more sustainable future.

Economic Benefits

Are there any tax breaks or funding opportunities that could benefit my project?
Green design and construction can save energy and buffer the bottom line through available tax breaks and financial incentives. States have taken many creative financial incentives in Going Green, from "Sales Tax Holidays" in Georgia and Virginia that remove the sales tax on specific days for purchases of qualifying energy saving goods, to cash rebates and grants for purchasing energy efficient components such as lighting and appliances. Utility companies throughout the nation offer financial incentives, as well. To see what is available in your state, view the summary tables that provide an overview of state, local and utility incentives at

On the Federal level, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides federal tax credits for consumers who purchase hybrid-electric vehicles and who make qualifying energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes and businesses.
In addition to lowering energy bills at home and on the road, the energy-efficient products eligible for the federal tax credits can lower the amount of federal income taxes paid by these taxpayers.

Can the cost of public capital improvement projects be reduced with green strategies?
Governmental agencies are leading by example in many of their policies and practices for a sustainable future. Reduce-Reuse-Recycle strategies are being implemented in many capital improvement projects, ultimately making taxpayer funds stretch further for improved end products. Buildings and highway projects in Washington State, for example, incorporate construction recycling programs into the contractor's scope of work.

Do green buildings make good long term public investments?
Public buildings that rely on taxpayer dollars to operate can see long term financial benefits in reduced operating costs when constructed with high performance criteria. A 2006 report shows that investments in green technologies in school buildings significantly reduce the long term operating costs to the public.

Can raising public awareness about energy efficiency really save money?
The state of Pennsylvania is demonstrating that the little things can really add up. Through a 2004 executive order, the Department of General Services has led an energy management and conservation campaign for state-owned facilities. The DGS implemented a variety of energy conservation measures across its owned and leased facilities that required both employees and management to team up to understand, then take action to reduce their energy footprint. By implementing the new practices, the commonwealth reduced energy use by 9.5 percent in 2006.

How can sustainable practices address important social issues like poverty?
Clean energy technologies offer opportunities to address socio-economic problems such as poverty. Hundreds of thousands of good jobs that can provide underserved communities a pathway out of poverty are part of the big economic picture of sustainability. Congress is considering such issues as the nation's policies and directions to address climate change are debated.

Are there examples of governmental programs to help fund energy efficient public projects?
The California Energy Commission has published How to Finance Public Sector Energy Efficiency Projects to help local governments, schools, and other public entities identify creative funding programs that allow energy efficiency projects to be implemented in their facilities.

Can performance contracting encourage energy consumption?
The Federal government has effectively used partnerships between agencies and energy services companies to reduce their building energy consumption.
There are many different forms of performance contracting that can assist both governmental and private owners. This link provides information about the basics of performance contracting and about specific services available in Colorado.

Social Benefits

Sustainability is a transformational movement that offers tremendous opportunities for civic engagement. It is the process of participating in one's community that constructs a sense of place and makes lasting contributions to both the individual and the society. Architects' expertise with collaboration and problem solving can lead the dialog of change. The following questions illustrate some of the Advocacy efforts that are taking place across the U.S. to promote the social benefits of a more sustainable future.

What are the barriers to bringing science and politics together?
Understanding the dynamics of making change is an essential part of having successful advocacy initiatives. Sustainability embraces two distinct, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives: science and politics. Social scientists are studying the bridges that can lead to green.

Do you have an Advocacy plan for sustainability?
Redefining Progress is a public policy think tank on sustainability that builds partnerships to influence policy and catalyze action. While focused on economic well-being, they conduct research and facilitate public dialogue on the many aspects of environmental preservation and social justice.

How can I stay abreast of the current events and information shaping sustainability?
Public awareness and interest in the green movement is growing at a rapid pace. A variety of media sources are being used to educate and inform. The Environmental News Network is an online resource of current events that is supported by a group of non-profits and corporations that share the desire to offer current and reliable information of sustainable technologies, green strategy initiatives, and environmental protection.

AIA Sustainability