SANTA MONICA, CA — The United States could make its buildings more environmentally responsible and create more green jobs by taking a cue from programs in the European Union and Australia, according to new research by the Rand Corporation.

Successful strategies include inspection, rating and publicly posting the energy efficiency of buildings -- moves that have reduced energy use in the structures while increasing their value, the study by the nonprofit research firm said.

"If the United States wants to be a global competitor in green building technology, it can learn from the ways in which information disclosure, building codes, financial incentives and benchmarking have been used in Europe and Australia," Charles Ries, the report's lead author and Rand senior fellow said in a prepared statement.

Researchers looked at five key policy tools: building codes, energy efficiency ratings, the role of public buildings, the training and certification of experts, and the issuance of tradable "white certificates," documents that certify reduction of specific amounts of energy consumption.

According to study findings, important points for U.S. policymakers to consider include:

  •  Makers of building materials would be able to better standardize products if there were regional consistency in the energy efficiency requirements for building codes. For the long term, performance codes could also be considered.
  •  Energy performance certificates should be understandable and meaningful enough to affect marketplace behavior, and should be required to be used in property advertisements and listings.
  •  Widespread energy efficiency gains are possible only through retrofitting and making operational improvements to existing buildings. Energy use monitoring, as well as incentives, inspection and improvement recommendation systems are essential.
  •  Public buildings should continue to be a test bed for energy-saving ideas and should promote awareness of building energy-performance levels.
  •  Building energy-efficiency programs can play an important part of a cap-and-trade program for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

The study, called "Improving the Energy Performance of Buildings, Learning from the European Union and Australia," was released on Monday. More information about the study and its purchase is available from Rand.

A View of Sydney — Image CC licensed by Flickr user
Corey Leopold