Change one structure to make it more energy-efficient and you save money.
But change a bunch of structures in cities and towns across Oklahoma to make them more energy-efficient and you save boatloads of money, like an estimated $59 million in energy costs by 2020.
The ninth annual Oklahoma Sustainability Conference will explore the newest technologies to do just that, Friday and Saturday at the Nigh Conference Center on the campus of Edmond's University of Central Oklahoma.
The conference will tackle everything from tax credits for making a home more energy-efficient to creating a sustainable business to organic gardening techniques from Paul James, HGTV's "The Gardener Guy."
One of the newest things in green living is changing the way buildings are built. That's become easier with the help of $46 million in Oklahoma's stimulus funds to improve building codes from the $3.1 billion to state energy programs from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The volunteer-based Oklahoma Sustainability Network successfully applied for the stimulus funds through the U.S. Department of Energy and Oklahoma Department of Commerce, and contracted with C.H. Guernsey for technical advice on the building codes and Phillips Murrah law firm to work on their appeal to municipalities to green those codes.
Jim Roth, who heads up Phillips Murrah's alternative-energy practice group, said the firms have been crafting a work plan to appeal to the cities to green their codes. They plan to appeal to every municipality in Oklahoma, from the large to the very small.
Their first job is to identify jurisdictions that might be receptive.
Some Oklahoma cities have already taken steps to make their code more energy-efficient on new structures, Roth said.
For example, Idabel adopted the 2006 version of the International Energy Conservation Code, and Alva, Elk City and Norman adopted the 2003 version.
"They had already done it on their own," Roth said.
And from an environmental standpoint, adoption of greener building codes statewide could save 1,259 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, he said.
Benefits to the cities include reducing the cost of doing business, lowering their energy load over time and improving air quality.
"They want to be a place that's attractive for home buyers," Roth said.
Craig Immel, managing member of Green Property Funds of Tulsa, will be moderating the panel on the green building track at the conference. He plans to cover everything from energy efficiency and water efficiency to indoor air quality.
"How a building is oriented can impact energy efficiency," Immel said. "We'll be looking at creating neighborhoods that are more walkable, with a more directed set of uses."
One of the ideas is a throwback to past days, with housing built over storefronts.
"If people had somewhere nearby to walk to, they'd rather walk,"
Immel said people have lots of questions about everything from techniques to tax credits.
"We do see more and more interest (in green building,)" he said. "A lot more people are asking what they can do in their own home."
Eric Pollard, coordinator of the OSN conference, said he's particularly excited about Saturday's homeowners' workshop that will detail energy efficiency, energy auditing, landscaping or xeriscaping, indoor air quality, onsite renewables and tax credits for appliances.
"Really like a one-stop shop," he said. "In general, we are going to be connecting demand with supply. "¦ We're going to be in a position to give people knowledge to know what to do."
For more information, visit www.oksustainability.org/2010conference.php. "Carol Cole-Frowe
photo Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity used green building techniques in its Hope Crossing development. Photo/Mark Hancock