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USGBC Finds Research Underfunded


By Allyson Wendt - This article was produced by BuildingGreen, Inc.- www.buildinggreen.com

Despite the increasing popularity of green building, research on high-performance building practices and technologies represents a tiny percentage of federally funded research. According to a report released in March 2007 by the Research Committee of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), only 0.2 percent of federally funded research—or an average of $193 million per year from 2002 to 2005—is aimed at green building topics. That funding represents only 0.02 percent of the estimated value of all building construction in the U.S.

The report, titled “Green Building Research Funding: An Assessment of Current Activity in the United States,” limits its scope to federal funding from 2002 to 2005 for research on the environmental and health impacts of buildings. Specific areas like urban planning and brownfield research, for example, were excluded. The authors of the report found the largest portion of this funding went to research on energy efficiency and renewable energy (mostly on photovoltaics), with a small portion going to research on fuel cells in architectural applications. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was the largest source of funds, although it devoted only 2.5 percent of its research budget to green building research funding.

According to Gail Brager, chair of the committee and director of the Center for the Built Environment at the University of California in Berkeley, the findings were unexpected: “Perhaps most surprising was how shockingly little the funding was, compared to the money spent in the building construction industry,” she said. Brager hopes the report will spur change, however. “Our goal is for this report to lead to significant changes in the current paucity of federal funding for sustainability research,” she said.

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In a position statement released to coincide with the report, the Research Committee recommended that the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the two agencies primarily responsible for funding academic research, should devote 2 percent of their research budgets to green building topics. For other agencies, the statement recommends that total federal funding for green building research should equal 0.1 percent of average annual construction value, or about $1 billion annually, based on data from 2004. This would represent a significant increase over current levels of funding. A second report will offer recommendations for prioritizing green building research, but no date has been set for its release.

For more information:
U.S. Green Building Council Research Committee
Washington, D.C.
www.usgbc.org/resources/ (click on “Research” to download the report)

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