I was very happy to sit in the front row of the audience today as Will Wynn discussed his Austin Climate Protection Plan at our Austin Home Builders Association. I’ve heard the Mayor speak before, but clearly this topic was a passionate subject for him and I thought his speech was excellent.
First, the Mayor laid out the scientific evidence for global warming due to increased CO2 emissions. He reminded us that carbon dioxide is not a toxic gas in itself but rather it is the heat trapping properties of this gas in our atmosphere which are acting like a thick extra blanket on our earth. I was especially impressed with his slides about peak CO2 levels over the last 600,000 thousand years of history and how we’re currently above the highest level recorded and on our way to double the CO2 in our atmosphere in history. The warming temperatures are a major factor in lots of troubling climactic trends. Worsening storms & hurricanes, rising ocean height, hotter temperates, drought, etc. Lots of bad news on that front, and even worse from my perspective that Americans are a huge culprit of the pollution even though we make up a small portion of the worlds population. We are a very rich nation and our conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels has lead to us contributing 30% of the worlds CO2 levels even though we’re 5% of the population.
Next, after crushing us with the bad news, he reminded us of another environmental disaster that was able to be averted due to focused efforts from all nations (especially the US). In 1986 the scientific community alerted us to a huge hole in our Ozone layer. I’m boiling this down on the specifics but Ronald Reagan signed a treaty with the rest of the world and our CFC reductions /eliminations lead to that disaster being averted in less than 10 years.
Lastly, Mayor Wynn laid our his plans for Austin’s leadership in this crisis. The good news for us in the building community is that we’re a major part of the solution! Mayor Winn told us that 70% of the United States electricity consumption is from homes & offices. His proposal is that all new homes in Austin would be net-Zero energy capable by 2015. I interpret that to mean that new homes would be so efficient that if everyone added energy generation (solar array, wind turbine, etc) that these homes could have Zero net energy bills at the end of each year. Pretty amazing, even cooler that I’m closing in on doing just that in our homes that we are building today! Another provision of the plan is that existing homes that are sold would have mandatory levels of efficiency before they are sold (no details on the specifics yet). One of my favorite provisions is disclosure of previous utility bills and performance testing (HVAC loss and House loss tests) of all new homes. These are two great items that I think will make a huge difference in how people look at one house vs another. Traditionally houses are compared on simple price per foot calculations. This will allow buyers to see that one house has had $400 Summer utility bills vs another new/remodeled house (maybe a Risinger Home?) that has $100 bills for the same square footage.
I was impressed with Will’s speech and it encouraged me to keep pushing the performance envelope in construction. Our planet wins, our bills are lower, our homes are more comfortable, and we can tell our grandchildren we were part of the solution! Seems like being a good Steward is a good quality after all! To whom much has been given, much is required…
Thank you Mr Mayor, well done.