Ann Arbor joins national coalition to reduce building emissions

The city of Ann Arbor has joined the Building Performance Standards Coalition, an initiative the Biden administration recently announced to reduce building emissions. Ann Arbor joins over 30 state and local governments that have committed to developing new policies and programs by Earth Day 2024 to create healthier and more affordable buildings.  

It's a welcome development, says Missy Stults, the city's sustainability and innovations manager, particularly because Ann Arbor's buildings account for over 65% of the city's climate pollution. 

"I'm so thankful that the city has joined, because it expands our access to talented, passionate, high-caliber people outside of Ann Arbor," she says. "It's a move that will bring us together with people with different perspectives, from different industries, who ultimately have the same goal of trying to figure out how to make our built environment as healthy and safe as possible."

Stults stresses that there are a lot of ways local community members could address the health of their buildings, so there won't be just one policy or toolkit that will be enacted. She expects more information will come out of meetings over the next few months. Strategies from A²ZERO, Ann Arbor's plan to transition to carbon neutrality by 2030, will remain a focal point of the city's efforts to reduce building emissions.
 
"Whenever I'm asked what we're doing, I have to respond with 'what aren't we doing?,'" Stults says. "There's over 40 things that could be mentioned, including expanding our wildly popular Solarize program to commercial buildings and the creation of a benchmarking ordinance to improve the energy efficiency in buildings."

Stults says a number of people have approached her with recommendations for Ann Arbor to undertake initiatives and strategies being employed in cities such as Berkeley, Calif., or New York City. However, not all are a good fit for Ann Arbor.

"Those cities' regulations are different from Michigan's. But there is definitely room to look at how concepts and ideas from outside of Ann Arbor can come into play locally. We can integrate others' practices. It might just look a bit different," she says. 

Upgrading and retrofitting buildings to increase clean energy sources and reduce harmful emissions will impact more than the environment. Associated job creation and increased investment are expected to strengthen the city's economic future. 

"As we move forward, we're talking about doing retrofitting and doing installations and electrical upgrades. We'll have a real need for laborers and contractors to take on some of these good- paying jobs. You can't outsource that kind of stuff," Stults says. "It's one of the things that excites me most."

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of the city of Ann Arbor.