The greening of buildings

March 4, 2007 Source: US Green Building Council

At first blush, it seems Babylon did the right thing by enacting a new building code that town officials say is among the greenest in the nation.

Buildings have a staggering, yet relatively unnoticed, impact on the natural environment in our country. The U.S. construction industry, for example, is responsible for only 8 percent of our gross domestic product, but accounts for more than 40 percent of the total materials harvested from the environment each year.

From the Desk of: Steve Bellone, Supervisor, Town of Babylon, New York

 

1. Tell us a bit about the Town of Babylon’s recently launched Long Island Green Homes program.

 

Long Island Green Homes (LIGH) is a self-financing residential retrofit program for upgrading the energy efficiency of existing homes at little or no out-of-pocket cost to the homeowner. Even the nominal qualifying fee for the Home Performance Evaluation will be applied to the cost of the improvements. The Town will pay the licensed contractor once he has satisfactorily completed the work. The homeowner, who is not obliged to take on debt, will then repay the Town on a monthly basis for an amount and term agreed upon in advance. Once the obligation is satisfied, typically in six to ten years, all of the savings go directly to the homeowner. Should the homeowner move before the obligation is satisfied, it is assigned to the home. As the house’s energy efficiency has been certified by the Town, it will be more marketable, even though the Town will not be increasing the assessment of houses that have added energy enhancements.

 

The Town is not making loans to residents. Mindful that the average house in the Town spews the equivalent of 25lbs of carbon daily, Babylon is expanding the definition of solid waste to include energy waste, based on its carbon content. By defining energy waste in this way, the Town is able to provide energy-efficiency improvements to residents’ homes from its solid waste fund. This type of measure is known as a “benefit assessment.” When a municipality provides a specific improvement on a parcel of property for a public purpose, assessing the cost of the benefit against the property, that is a benefit assessment. In the case of Long Island Green Homes, energy-efficiencies for houses serve a vital purpose, remediating environmental damage caused by leaky and inefficient homes. The Town will subsidize up to $12,000 of efficiencies per home, obliging the homeowner to pay a monthly benefit assessment fee. In year one, the amount of the monthly fee is structured to be less than the monthly savings on a resident’s energy bills. The Town will levy a 3% administrative fee incorporated into the monthly payments.

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