A group of influential architects and green-building advocates have expressed concerns about the future of the sustainable building movement under the administration of President Donald Trump. These concerns were recently brought to light in an article published in the Architectural Record: What the New Administration Could Mean for Green Buildings.
Can Trump Dismantle Environmentalism?
Although some experts believe that Trump cannot singlehandedly dismantle all of the existing environmental regulations, such as those established and enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the current administration has already made wide-reaching strides in its attempt to do so.
Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for secretary of energy and Scott Pruitt, the president’s choice to head the EPA, are both known to disagree with the overwhelming consensus of environmental scientists concerning the existence of manmade climate change, and both have promised to do away with regulations protecting the environment, such as the EPA Clean Power Plan.
Trump himself spoke out against green buildings as far back as 2012 in an interview on CNBC, and only a few of the properties owned by Trump are LEED certified, according to the U.S. Green building Council (USGBC).
Federal LEED Requirements Targeted
Federal authorities, such as Todd Myers, the director of the Center for the Environment, are already looking to retire regulations that require LEED certification for newly constructed federal facilities. Myers fought against regulations that would require schools to adhere to green building standards, and he believes that buildings can achieve higher levels of energy efficiency by freeing builders from the confinement of LEED requirements.
The federal government has long been recognized as a leader in energy-efficient construction and remodels, but Trump has already said that he will repeal several of the executive orders issued by President Obama, including the one from February 2015, which requires all federal buildings to cut energy use by 2.5 percent every year for the next decade.
EPA Programs May Be Impacted
No matter how many executive orders are rescinded by Trump, certain laws and regulations will still have to be followed, including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which establishes the basic principles of sustainable building and requires federal contractors to adhere to them. The Trump administration will also not be able to revoke the GSA’s LEED-certification requirement without the help of Congress.
However, the EPA and other agencies have a wide range of discretionary policies and programs to help boost green building, such as Energy Star and Water Sense, that Taryn Holowka, senior vice president of marketing, communication and advocacy for the USGBC, says may be impacted by the Trump administration.
Green Building Not Lost
The good news for those in the green-building industry is that not all is lost. Holowka remains confident that policies concerning sustainable construction will never be fully dissolved, and the private markets will continue to see value in green buildings and green living.
One aspect of the current regulations that will help green building is that most of them are set at the local level, including city and county codes for building, water and energy use.
“When you drill down to any individual city, whoever’s in federal office doesn’t affect the industry that much,” said Russel Under, executive director of the Urban Green Council. “There’s tremendous innovation going on, and a lot is driven just because the market and owners want to make a better building than the last one, and [this] is grounded by a suite of local laws and state programs.”
Cities are taking steps to reduce energy use and shape environmental policy regardless of government actions at the state and federal levels. Just last December, mayors of the 90 largest cities in the world convened in Mexico City for a conference sponsored by C40 Cities. At the conference, the mayors agreed to double efforts to reduce carbon emissions by implementing new energy codes and requiring retrofits on municipal and commercial buildings.