phc september 2017 www.phcnews.com
dollar figure, we need an effective way for a rating agency to essentially decertify a property as "not green" if it fails to show energy and water efficiency progress. I speculate that an underlying problem is these megabanks don't know much about mechanical systems or building envelopes. They may have a new corporate strategy to promote sustainability, but are far removed from the construction industry. The heart of the problem is that it is hard to measure green. It has always been a difficult concept to standardize. If it were easy, there would not be hundreds of agencies competing to construct a comprehensive building rating system to put all buildings on the same scorecard. A Grist.org analysis (https://bit.ly/2YHIzfF) found that about "1,600 of the 3,800 properties in the Fannie Mae green bond program saw improvement in their energy scores within a median period of about two years, indicating that they likely met Fannie Mae's targets, at least with regard to energy use. (The program only began reporting water use scores in 2019.)" However, about 700 of those 1,600 properties saw their energy scores later stagnate or drop. "Overall, more than 800 properties in Fannie Mae's dataset saw lower or identical energy scores in the most recent data year compared to their scores at loan issuance," the online magazine notes. And $16.5 billion worth of buildings in the program went backward with energy and water use, becoming more wasteful. In 2019, Fannie Mae began requiring energy use improvements of 15 percent or better to qualify. Green bonds look great on paper. However, if the buildings are not greener after participating in the programs, who wins? Green bonds may continue to grow, and buildings may limp along to code compliance energy measures. It would be a shame for the seemingly noble cause of supporting energy and water efficiency to get a black eye for lack of substance, leading to a green bond bubble pop. The trend is continuing upward quickly. A CNBC video anticipates $375 billion will be issued as green bonds in 2021 (https://bit.ly/3BFYDgu). A more tightly regulated green bond system, supported by this amount of money, has the potential to do enormous good. On the other hand, green bonds could become the largest greenwash of all time. Without clear, measurable benchmarks for properties, I anticipate a future filled with corporate reports containing pictures of trees and leaves on the cover, concealing thousands of properties full of minimum energy code-compliant buildings. In that case, maybe we would have been better off without them. O Max Rohr is an education and training manager at CaleffiNorth America. He is a graduate of the University of Utah. He has worked in installation, sales and marketing in the hydronics and solar industries since 1998. He can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @ maxjrohr and on Instagram @caleffi_na_max.
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