Mayor Bill White says there's a renewed interest among building contractors and architects to "go green."
"Hundred dollar oil prices, 14--15 cents per killowatt-hour electricity, natural gas prices as $9 an MCF--those things that would not have been practical, that were considered movement causes or the sacrifice of the firm and perhaps even a breach of fudiciary duty in order to have a PR stunt by a firm five or six years ago or ten years ago--now are simple good business."
Kent Peterson is president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers. He says the building industry faces a tremendous challenge.
"Today, buildings are consuming approximately 40 percent of all the primary energy in the United States. That's more than any other sector that happens to be out there. And so it's very important for us to understand that we really have the technology to build buildings much more efficiently than what we've built in the past. And some of the exciting things is the process changes and how we go about designing and constructing buildings are starting to change, where we can build more efficient buildings, and it doesn't cost more money."
Peterson says retro-fitting an existing building is important, because new buildings only represent about two percent of commercial buildings.
"Some of the easiest way to save energy in a building is to actually go out and what we call retro-commission a building, which is to go back into the building and make sure the building operates in the way in which it was originally intended to operate and is operating efficiently. It's amazing that we actually see buildings that can sometimes be using three times as much energy as they were originally designed and intended to actually consume, just from poor operation. No one's really monitoring or seeing how the building's actually running."
Mayor White says the city will be considering a newer building code in the next couple of months.
"We'll have the most far-reaching, forward-thinking, practical but agressive commercial building code for energy efficiency in the nation."
There are new firms in Houston that consult on sustainable development, helping companies obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, or LEED certification, from the U.S. Green Building Council. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.