(Originally published in the April 2008 Housing Journal)

Green Building Q&A with Susie Marbury

Energy Efficient Green Buildings Administrator (NM Energy Conservation and Management Division)
President-Elect of the U.S. Green Building Council New Mexico Chapter (USGBCNM)


What is green building?

Green building practices balance environmental impact and economic needs with human health and comfort, sometimes referred to as the People, Planet, Profit triad, or triple bottom line. Green building, also called sustainable building and high performance building, is the term given to a set of emerging practices in the design and construction of new and renovated buildings. Minimization of building energy requirements is a major factor in the design of sustainable buildings.


Why the emphasis on buildings with energy efficiency?

Nationally, buildings are estimated to contribute as much as 50 percent of total energy consumption and resulting greenhouse gas emissions. By building green buildings that conserve energy, we have the opportunity to mitigate climate change while reducing utility bills and creating more healthy and comfortable environments in which to live and work.


What other aspects go into green building?

Typically, green building looks at five aspects of building practices:

Site deals with where we build and how we use the site on which we build.
Water addresses both indoor and outdoor use of potable water.
Energy looks at how much and what type of energy we use.
Materials covers appropriate choices for resource management
Indoor environmental quality assures that buildings are healthy and comfortable for occupants.

Owner education is another critical piece in the residential arena. This means providing the homebuyer with a manual that explains all the green features of the home and how to maintain them to continue reaping the benefits.


What is the state doing to encourage green building?

In 2007, the New Mexico State Legislature passed a tax incentive to encourage commercial and residential builders to design and construct buildings with high requirements for energy efficiency and overall sustainability. The incentive is called the Sustainable Building Tax Credit.


How would a home builder get the Sustainable Building Tax Credit?

Start with your design early in the planning process. To qualify for the tax credit, homes must be built to the Build Green NM Gold standard, developed by the National Association of Home Builders and adopted by the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico, or the LEED-H Silver standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Throughout construction, the building will need documentation, including some inspections to certify that it meets green building and energy efficiency standards. Once the building is constructed and certified, the builder applies for the tax credit through the state Energy Conservation and Management Division of the NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.


How much money can you get through the Sustainable Building Tax Credit?

The tax credit can be substantial depending on the square footage of the building and the sustainable rating it receives. For example, a 2,000 square foot home built to the Build Green NM Gold standard can receive a $9,000 tax credit. The home must also be 40 percent more efficient than a home built to the standard building code. You can find more information on the tax credit at www.CleanEnergyNM.org.


Is the Sustainable Building Tax Credit a new development in New Mexico?

Yes. After the legislation was passed in February 2007, the rules for tax credits for both residential and commercial building went into place in October 2007. No applications for commercial buildings were turned in, but even with that small window of time, two homes were certified and received the tax credit for 2007 (Keystone Builders – Albuquerque and Daniel Buck Construction – Santa Fe), and we anticipate many more builders will participate this year.   In 2008, the tax credit has an annual cap of $5 million for commercial and $5 million for residential.

What plans are you making for the 9th annual GreenBuilt Tour in May held by the USGBC New Mexico chapter?

We’re planning events that span two weekends called Sustainability Week. On May 10, we’ll have our Green Central Expo and a series of lectures and workshops in Albuquerque. People can learn more about green building and see products and materials that are environmentally friendly. During the week, there will be tours of green commercial buildings and there will be workshops for building professionals. The weekend of May 17 and 18, green homes in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos will be open for tours. We’ll have a guidebook with directions to and descriptions of each home.

Where can people get more information on green building and the GreenBuilt Tour?

Three web sites: www.BuildGreenNM.com, www.CleanEnergyNM.org and www.USGBCNM.org. Builders can also contact me directly at 505-476-3254 or Susie.Marbury@state.nm.us.