Green buildings are a Grinch that will steal more than just Christmas


With the incoming Biden administration eager to unleash a regulatory reign of terror throughout the land, people should be prepared for their all-knowing betters in Washington to make more of their decisions for them, whether its in energy, healthcare, and what they do with their disposal income (assuming they have some).

But it won’t just be bureaucrats in Washington or in state capitals who will be throwing their weight around. Enlightened elements in the private sector have big plans for us, too, and what they’re cooking up will – surprise, surprise – also line their pockets.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) was founded in New York City in 1857 by a group of 13 architects to promote “the scientific and practical perfection of its members” and “elevate the standing of the profession.” For most of its existence, the AIA did just that, and its members and the public at large benefitted from the association’s high standards of professionalism. But times have changed and so has the AIA.

Today, the AIA’s headquarters are in Washington’s handsome Octagonal House, built in 1800. With the Washington address, however, comes participation in Washington’s reindeer games, and the AIA has become more political and less professional over time.

For years, the AIA has challenged its members (there are over 95,000 of them) to design buildings to combat – you guessed it – climate change, setting a goal to hit “net zero” edifices by 2030. About 40% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. come from heating, cooling, lighting, and constructing buildings, according to the AIA.

Having jumped aboard the climate-change bandwagon, the AIA is finding the going a little rough. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, only 27 of the 19,000 building design firms owned by AIA members met their annual emissions targets. That was an improvement over 2018, when 16 lived up to their pledge. And the year before that, only 9 firms hit their mark.

Not What the Client Wants

“The architecture profession tends to give what the client asks for, and the vast majority of clients aren’t asking” for green structures, Mike Fowler, a senior associate at Mithun Inc., a Seattle architecture firm, told the Journal (Dec. 26-27). Green buildings typically cost 2 to 3% more to construct, and the payback in terms of energy efficiency usually doesn’t come for seven years. This has kept investors away.

Not pleased with the pace of change, the AIA has moved into political advocacy and, since 2018, has urged cities to adopt stricter building codes, including compelling new construction to have solar panels and other green paraphernalia. By rewriting building codes to suit a certain political agenda, some suppliers of building materials will be favored over others. This opens the door to cronyism on a grand scale and will further entrench a culture of government-sanctioned corruption already prevalent in many urban areas. None of this will have the slightest effect on the climate, but it will enable the AIA to virtue signal while benefiting purveyors of approved green technologies and materials.

Look for the Biden administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation to issue a torrent of regulations in the name of saving the planet from the alleged scourge of manmade climate change. In the AIA, they will have a willing partner to do at the local level what the feds can’t from Washington.

  • Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT, where he focuses on natural resources, energy, property rights, and geopolitical developments. Articles by Dr. Cohen have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Busines Daily, The New York Post, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Times, The Hill, The Epoch Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Miami Herald, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. He has been interviewed on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC News, NPR, BBC, BBC Worldwide Television, N24 (German-language news network), and scores of radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. Dr. Cohen has addressed conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Bangladesh. He has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and a Ph. D. – summa cum laude – from the University of Munich.

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