A report issued by the tri-national Commission for Environmental Cooperation, and announced Thursday at a green conference in Vancouver, concluded that green building could slash greenhouse gas emissions in North America more quickly and cheaply than other means. The commission had been established by Canada, Mexico and the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Canadian Press cites study head Jonathan Westeinde as lamenting that North American countries are trailing behind Europe when it comes to rolling out green buildings. About 35% of the continent's greenhouse gases come from the built environment, making that the largest contributor. In Canada building also takes up about half of all resources.
According to Westeinde, about 4% of current North American building can be considered green. Examples include incorporating renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, installing efficient lighting and appliances, beefing up insulation, using passive cooling, and more.
Westeinde also pointed out that green building should not be something purely relegated to new construction. Rather, retrofitting of existing buildings needs to be ramped up. The good news is boosting a home's energy and water efficiency means homeowners and renters save big money, but the bad new is that it usually takes some years to realize a net financial payoff. However, decreasing costs of green technology, coupled with sky-high energy and water prices, means that equation is getting more favorable all the time.
What's needed now are more government incentives to encourage increased conversion to green building. A number of local leaders are sponsoring pioneering programs, such as Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and more.
Don't forget that federal tax credits on home renewable energy products were extended until the end of 2008.
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