After 2011, when most of the green-building federal tax incentives expired, did the concept of eco-friendly construction simply dry up and blow away?
Not at all, say experts such as Peter Britell, author of Green Buildings: Law, Contract and Regulation. Instead, what happened amounted to a transformation in thinking about energy efficiency. That is, the infrastructure that developed around the incentive-driven green construction now makes it possible for eco-minded builders and renovators to tap into more federal resources.
Tax incentives may come and go, but apparently builders and owners still believe that saving energy means saving money for the long-term. For the small-business owner, especially, that's an incentive in itself: Long-term savings mean a lot to the bottom line.
And tax breaks? There are even some of those that still remain. Here's a roundup of some of what's still out there.
Design: EPA's Green Apps
Part of the post-federal-tax-incentive infrastructure, especially for small businesses that want to be resource-minded about planning and design, is the advent of free federal apps that aid in just this task.
Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Portfolio Manager lets designers calculate energy cost-savings for a specific project. The Portfolio Manager's online tool also streamlines the way LEED requirements are satisfied and the way energy-service contracts are set up. Everything can be benchmarked against the top green buildings in the country, meaning that energy-efficiency goals can come in line with what's really worked before.
Energy Star Target Finder. This tool enables architects and designers to decide on their energy-efficiency goals and then get a score back from the Environmental Protection Agency based on the design. Score high enough and the project can plug into the Energy Star Challenge program, which could result in the space being awarded special national recognition.
Funding: Green-Building Tax Incentives
Here's a roundup of three federal tax incentives that you can still take advantage of. Builders working with owners who want to go green might note these as ways to enrich the concept of that next energy-efficient job.
Residential Energy Conservation Subsidy Exclusion. Found a public utility willing to give a subsidy for the installation of green systems in a home? Residential owners won't be taxed on that subsidy by the IRS. It's an incentive that's still in place, and one that doesn't seem to be expiring anytime soon.
Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. For residential owners ordering that next solar, wind, geothermal or other renewable-energy buildout‚ the federal government still provides a personal income tax credit amounting to 30 percent of the whole-system cost. No upper limit on this one, either. However, it's set to expire at the end of 2016.
Federal Energy Efficient Mortgages. The Energy Efficient Mortgage is not only a resource for new construction, it's an incentive to be noted by the real-estate sector, too. Owners seeking a mortgage to finance green improvements‚ but also those seeking to buy a new energy-efficient home‚ can stretch their debt-to-income ratios for financing by figuring in cost-effective energy-saving details as part of their plan. This is not currently set to expire.
State-level energy-efficiency incentives still exist as well. Go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Searching for tax credits and incentives by location is easy, once you're there.
It may not be the heyday of federal tax incentives as it was five years ago. But the transformation of the green-energy industry is an after-effect that absolutely hasn't run out of juice.
James O'Brien is a correspondent for Boston University's Research Magazine and for The Commons a journal covering higher-education. He has written extensively as a news correspondent for The Boston Globe. James blogs via Contently.com.
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