Our June issue covered the tax credits portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or stimulus package. However, there are funds available for green construction that may more directly help remodelers and contractors. Green Building Advisor conducted a webinar on the topic with experts Rob Moody and Keith Canfield. I spoke to them after the webinar for more specific information on where remodelers can benefit.
Here is an overview of the key areas for green construction.
Dept. of Energy -- Weatherization Assistance Program: $5 billion
Dept. of Energy -- Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG): $3.2 billion
Dept. of Labor -- Green Jobs Training: $500 million
Dept. of Energy -- State Energy Program: $3.1 billion
HUD -- Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2: $1.93 billion
Rob Moody, a sustainability consultant with Organic Think, in Asheville, N.C., views the stimulus package through the lens of the recession. While analyzing the ARRA fund allocation, he was looking for how the money could be used to train people who have lost their jobs or need education to meet the demands of the new economy. He says that, of the list above, two areas answer this need within the remodeling industry: the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Dept. of Labor’s Green Jobs Training.
Keith Canfield, managing partner with Rapport Strategy & Design, in Madison, Tenn., says that remodelers should focus their efforts on state and local money from two programs from the Dept. of Energy: the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) and the State Energy Program. “Layering all of these programs is what the government is looking for,” he says.
Both experts say that tracking this money will take work. Remodelers will have to become researchers and advocates for where the money should be used. Divide and conquer by creating a committee through your local remodeler or builder association to investigate money received by city, county, and state entities. Canfield says that even though the programs have not all been approved, remodelers should begin planning right away. “Find out what is in the plan and start a strategy now. There is and will be an increasing demand on resources for energy-efficient products and training,” he says. As programs are approved, contractors will be competing for space in the same training classes. “Be on the front end of the curve. Get yourselves and your staff squared away now to take advantage of these things,” Canfield says.
Dept. of Energy -- Weatherization Assistance Program
Amount: $5 billion
Purpose: To expand existing state weatherization programs. States are encouraged to provide the necessary training and purchase additional equipment.
Note: Houses weatherized before 1994 are now eligible for re-weatherization under this program. Though many of these programs are limited to low-income households, the income level has increased from 150% to 200% of Federal Poverty Level.
Progress: Money from the ARRA has already reached about 22 states. Once the state has applied and shows progress on programs, they will be eligible for additional money.
More information: For a list of state weatherization offices, click here.
The site has a chart that shows the allocation for each state. For example, Maryland’s weatherization program will receive $61,441,745.
Typically, Moody says, this money is allocated through a network of community action partners within the state. “They are nonprofits, set up to oversee certain aspects of community assistance,” he says. These partners oversee the work, hire contractors, or do the work themselves. “If I were a renovator looking for work and had some experience with weatherization, I would contact the state program to find area partners," he says. "Concentrate on finding out which of your community action partners are subcontracting the work.”
He also suggests checking with the state housing authority and adding your company to the list of approved subcontractors. However, many of these programs require that contractors have weatherization, green training, or certification before they will approve them for the work.
Dept. of Energy -- Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG)
Amount: $3.2 billion
Purpose: To assist state/local/tribal governments in implementing strategies to reduce fossil fuel emissions, reduce total energy use, and improve energy efficiency in the transportation and building sectors. The money is being distributed to state energy offices, the 10 largest cities and counties in the country, cities with a population of more than 35,000, and counties with a population over 200,000. About $800 million of this money is going to state energy offices to distribute to cities that are too small for direct grants. For example, California has 229 entities that will split about $350 million. According to Canfield, there is more of this money going directly to cities and states and counties than any of the other programs on the list.
*Programs that need less than $250,000 are being fast-tracked.
*For programs between $250,000 to $2 million, the city or county must file an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (EECS) plan. It is reviewed by the Dept. of Energy.
*$2 million-plus projects file an EECS, go through a comprehensive review. Future payments dependent on progress. The deadlines for the EECS plan was June 25.
Guidelines have not been published for the $400 million allocated to competitive grants. The deadline for competitive grants is August 10.
More information: For a list of how much money has been allocated to cities and counties by state, click here.
This funding could be ideal for residential and commercial architects, consultants, and contractors. It’s flexible, Canfield says, in that almost any program that reduces energy consumption or increases efficiency will likely qualify. These funds could be used for appliance replacement programs, revolving loan funds, transportation programs (bike trails, zoning), installation of renewable energy sources on government buildings, recycling programs, waste water treatment plants, and energy-efficient traffic signals and street lights.
Each city and county will determine how to deploy the funds, but Canfield predicts that many of them will use the money for rebate programs for energy-efficient house upgrades. The fund could be used to employ energy auditors, consultants, and architects. Canfield says that remodelers can reach a new customer base that is interested in energy-efficient retrofits and offer them an analysis of existing houses, as well as installation services for energy-saving upgrades.
Canfield says that his home city of Nashville could apply funds to its existing program for fast-tracking permits for LEED-certified homes. Other cities could follow suit, or even subsidize permits for homes that will achieve LEED certification or those that follow other green guidelines.
Canfield advises remodelers to get copies of local EECBG applications. “If your city or county qualifies, but has not applied, urge them to apply,” he says, adding that although an application has been submitted, it does not mean the program has been approved and the funds released.
Dept. of Labor -- Green Jobs Training
Amount: $500 million for six programs
*Training Apprenticeship Programs Grants: $6.5 million, deadline March 31, 2009
*State Labor Market Information Improvement Grants: $50 million, deadline Aug. 14, 2009
*Energy Training Partnerships Grants: $100 million, deadline Sept. 4, 2009
*Pathways Out of Poverty Grants: $150 million, deadline Sept. 29, 2009
*State Energy Sector Partnerships & Training Grants: $190 million, deadline Oct. 20, 2009
*Green Capacity Building Grants: $5 million, deadline Aug. 5, 2009
Purpose: Moody says that it’s not just for people who are out of work or have barriers to employment, it’s for those who have lost jobs due to policy changes and who need retraining.
Note: The money will be distributed to state labor departments.
Progress: Moody says that most of this money has yet to be distributed. The deadlines shown above are for grant proposals from workforce investment boards or nonprofits and agencies that are vying for this training money. The money and duration of the grants will vary.
State apprenticeship information
State apprenticeship agencies
Green Occupations Growth Report
State and local agencies
Career OneStop ReEmployment Portal
State Workforce Investment Boards
Moody thinks that there is an opportunity here for remodelers to receive training on energy-efficiency and green building. He is hoping that this money can be used by remodelers for the upcoming educational programming that is part of REGREEN’s residential remodeling guidelines. He is also hoping this will complement the proposed American Clean Energy & Security Act that is currently being reviewed by Congress. Though the priority will be for existing programs, the state departments of labor will be working hard to find new programs. “This is a great way for people to create partnerships,” he says.
Dept. of Energy -- State Energy Program (SEP)
Amount: $3.1 billion
Purpose: Increase energy generation from renewable sources; reduce greenhouse gases; reduce energy use by offering loans, grants, incentives for energy-efficiency. Similar to EECBG, the money is provided to state energy offices.
Note: A major factor in evaluating programs is cost-effectiveness, including calculating the number of BTUs saved for every $1,000 spent.
Progress: These state grants are likely to favor commercial buildings, but some will include residential programs. State energy program applications were submitted May 15 and were approved about one month later. There are only 50 state energy offices, Canfield says, so processing these applications has been relatively quick.
More information:State Energy Offices
Housing and Urban Development -- Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2
Amount: $1.93 billion
Purpose: To address home foreclosures and abandonment.
Note: For states, governments, and nonprofits.
More information: A mapping tool to help those applying for grants to find neighborhoods in their area with the greatest need: HUD map.
These are large grants that cover a minimum of 100 homes in a neighborhood, so although remodelers might be hired to do the work, they would not likely apply for these grants.
--Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.