Texas politics are maddening. Every other January we dive in full of hope and every other May we go home empty-handed. And those are the good years. Then 2011 rolls around with astronomical budget deficits, education issues and redistricting…and look what happens. Two major green building bills have passed and await the governor’s signature or his distraction with presidential politics.
House Bill 51 – Green Building Bill for State Buildings and Higher Education Facilities.
Finally, a green building bill for Texas! It allows for certification using one of many rating systems or building codes. An advisory panel of eight will be created consisting of the usual CRE interest groups plus a chemist, the Energy Systems Lab at A&M and someone from the Brick Industry Association to make recommendations to the State Energy Conservation Office. One lesson we learned is not to mention LEED by name, but rather as a “rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council”.
Positive things about the bill are that it states that green design services will be considered additional service, not basic services and that any applicable federal deductions under 179D must be allowed to go to the designers.
Negatives are that it allows University / College Boards of Regents to approve or not these requirements for each project and it does not go into effect until Sept 01, 2013 (which is after the next legislative session so its vulnerable to modifications or negation before it even takes effect). And it did not pass with overwhelming support, including a Nay vote from my state rep. But this opens the door to market pressures on the private sector and erases even more excuses for not building green and I’ll take it a hundred times over.
House Bill 3391 – On-Site Water Reclamation Including Rainwater Harvesting, Condensate and Blowdown for Potable and Non-potable Use at State Buildings.
Ironically, this bill is less “watered-down” than HB 51. State building with roofs over 10,000 square feet must include some type of on-site water reclamation. This is a good piece of legislation. It addresses concerns about cross-connections with municipal supplies. It encourages school districts to consider adopting these practices. And if you want to see just how integrated legislation is, take a look at the intricacies of this bill. It addresses financing for rainwater harvesting projects, addresses HOA concerns and limitations and even adds a line item to Real Estate Seller Disclosure forms. I feel this law will be a real eye-opener as to the ease of green methods and I hope it will debunk many of the myths out there.
Now the governor could still veto these bills, but let’s pray they pass under his radar. Hats off to the many people and organizations that have worked tirelessly against repeated failures for the last 6 years of advocacy to get to this point. It really matters. Recently, Cushman & Wakefield did a comparison of how green CBDs were and Houston faired well except for state green policies. These laws will help tremendously in both reality and perception. May this be the impetus for more progressive and money-saving policies in the near future.