By Diane Porter
Green Right Now

Architect Ed Mazria has a vision for buildings that would make them energy neutral or “net zero”, a point where they used so little energy that they could equal it with what they fed back to the electric grid. It’s called the 2030 Architecture plan. And it aims big.

So it’s little surprise that Mazria and colleagues have developed a sister plan addressing the current American economic crisis. It would create jobs. Cut energy use. Curb global warming emissions. Send business to banks.  Revitalize the construction sector.

And, oh yeah, it would help people get better, lower interest mortgages.

Are you there President Obama? Congress?

When Obama spoke to the nation early in January about his plan to get the United States economy back on track – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan – he spoke of creating a “clean energy economy” by rebuilding troubled infrastructure and modernizing federal buildings and American homes.

“In the process, we will put Americans to work in new jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced, jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain,” Obama said.

This is quite the familiar territory for Santa Fe architect Mazria, founder and executive director of Architecture 2030, an organization dedicated to eliminating – in the next 21 years – the massive carbon footprint that buildings leave on the earth.

If that sounds optimistic, it should be noted that Architecture 2030’s plan has already been adopted by numerous cities, counties and states, in addition to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Green Building Council, among others. According to the Pew Center for Global Climate Change in Arlington, VA., 32 states have completed climate action plans, and more are in the process of revising or developing one.

And Mazria and 2030 Director Kristina Kershner recently had an audience with the Obama transition team to present their 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan, which would lower the mortgage rate on a home or accelerate the depreciation schedule for a business when that homeowner or business owner accomplished greater energy efficiency.

“The transition team now is looking for the big-picture ideas,” Mazria said. “Then they will be sitting down with the organizations and begin putting meat on the bones of the concept.”

Here’s how the 2030 Challenge Stimulus Plan would work:

  1. The federal government invests $171.72 billion ($85.86 billion a year for two years) in the plan (After two years, the plan would be evaluated to see if it should be extended, phased out or terminated).
  2. A homeowner or business owner gets an energy audit, works on a plan to renovate an existing home or building, and gets that plan approved by a lending institution that works with the federal guidelines. If the structure is new, the builder designs it to achieve a certain level of energy efficiency, making it attractive to buyers who want the improved mortgage or depreciation rates and the lower utility bills.
  3. Contractors are hired, materials are purchased, and the renovation or construction is completed. An inspection is done to confirm the work.
  4. The resulting mortgage rate or appreciation schedule is directly tied to the energy reduction target that was reached. A home that achieves a 50% carbon reduction might have a mortgage rate of 4.0%, while a carbon-neutral home might have a mortgage rate of 2.0%.  For those who renovate commercial buildings, the accelerated depreciation schedule they receive is similarly stair-stepped.

The positive domino effect of the plan happens like this: All those homeowners and business owners who want the federal mortgage buy-down create a huge renovation market (estimated at $1.6 trillion).