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Focus turns to green building efficiencies

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

STATEWIDE Oregon's residential and commercial construction markets may be stalled by the paralyzing credit crisis, but state lawmakers and industry professionals see potential in the state's green building sector to add jobs to the shrinking economy.

Area builders and developers are shying away from new green construction however, and instead focusing more on energy-efficient retrofits of existing homes and buildings. The state Legislature is also exploring the economic potential of this sector, with a group of lawmakers recently announcing the Energy Efficient and Sustainable Technology Act, a bill which aims to make financing for green retrofits more accessible.

"We know that energy efficiency and renewable energy projects are a good bet on the future," says one of the bill's main sponsors, Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland.

EEAST would provide increased funding for Oregonians to make their homes more energy efficient via low-interest, long-term loans. Home and business owners could attach loan payments to their utility bills. The  savings from the reduced energy use means consumers would likely see an immediate decrease in their utility bills even with the additional loan payment, say the bill's co-sponsors.  

"I think it is a fabulous step in that it puts a financing mechanism in front of consumers, which has previously been a significant obstacle," says Sean Penrith, executive director of Earth Advantage, a Portland-based residential green certification program.

Home and business owners won't be the only ones benefiting from their upgrades.  For every $1 million invested in efficiency retrofits, eight to 11 on-site jobs are created, according to a recent report published by the Oregon Department of Energy.

With legislators hoping to put EEAST in action this summer, hundreds of new green-collar jobs could arrive in a matter of months.  

"I have no doubt we will see retrofits increase," says Mark Edlen of Gerding Edlen Development. "The opportunity is enormous."

NICOLE STORMBERG

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