The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy highlights the fragile connection between the natural and built environments. While the effects of climate change in Tucson are different from those in the East Coast, we must be smart about where and how we build to adapt to changing conditions.
Since 1993, the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has been leading the international conversation about how to build more sustainable communities. USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system provides third-party certification that buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated to save money and resources while improving public health.
LEED is the common way you prove to the world that your building is healthy. We need more proof.
On Oct. 24, USGBC's Arizona Chapter held its first luncheon to honor those who prove it: 300 Arizona LEED-certified building owners and their teams, along with 16 elected officials. Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero led the Tucson delegation. Both the University of Arizona and the city of Tucson won recognition for their LEED-certified buildings. Tucson's Sundt Construction and Tofel Construction companies also received awards.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of USGBC, advocating for energy-efficient, water-efficient, healthier buildings.
Last week more than 30,000 volunteers and industry leaders from across the world gathered in San Francisco for USGBC's annual expo. The message? We are addicted to denial on the subject of climate change. We must change now, particularly in the United States, where buildings account for half the world's greenhouse-gas emissions yet we're only 5 percent of the population.
Global Real Estate Sustainability Performance metrics on energy, water and waste highlight the trend toward top companies building and retrofitting buildings to LEED gold and platinum to attract and retain top talent - who are demanding socially responsible buildings.
Locally, a five-story student housing complex, The District, was certified LEED silver and was recently purchased by investors for $67 million - an economic success. Retrofits could be a huge job creator in Tucson's older, energy-inefficient buildings, so we are pushing the state Legislature to pass financing mechanisms like Property Assessed Clean Energy.
Tucson and Pima County are taking the lead toward Net Zero energy, which verifies how buildings can profitably generate and conserve energy for the occupants.
An energy disclosure ordinance is also needed to protect consumers.
Pima County in October adopted a new energy code for residential and commercial buildings that will reduce energy use in new buildings by 30 percent, and the city of Tucson is poised to adopt the same code in the next month.
It will require new homes, additions and some remodels to have more insulation, more efficient lighting and pass the duct blaster and blower door tests. We can't afford to be heating and cooling Tucson's outdoors. Local builder John Wesley Miller will test the voluntary Net-Zero Energy Standard this year, and we're certain he can do it economically.
Where we learn matters, so USGBC will continue to promote clean technologies for schools at the local, state and national levels. We invite companies and volunteers to participate in a national Green Apple Day of Service every September. Arizona's first healthy LEED school was Pima Community College's Desert Vista Campus. We have many new LEED buildings at the University of Arizona, Davidson Elementary School, Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence and others.
If you're interested in surviving climate change, please join us to push companies and elected officials to prove their buildings are sustainable. Visit usgbcaz.org for more details.
Doug Crockett is the chair of the USGBC Arizona Chapter, Southern Branch. Diana Rhoades is the incoming 2013 Southern Branch chair and is a senior aide in the Tucson City Council Ward 1 office.