by Frank Lewis
Mother Jones reports on one architect's fascinating vision for a greener and more economically stable future:
Okay, quick: Which portion of the US economy consumes the most energy?
Nope. It’s not transportation. Not manufacturing either. The correct answer is the building sector, which guzzles about three-quarters of the nation's electricity and half of our overall energy—and is responsible for almost half of America's carbon emissions.
Round two: Which sector, besides banking, has been hardest hit by the recession? You can see where this is going. Construction unemployment stands at 20 percent, more than twice the national rate. For the six months that ended in April, the building industry has shed jobs at a rate of about 120,000 per month—more than 1.2 million jobs have been lost since December 2007. Private construction, which normally accounts for about 9 percent of America's GDP, is on its knees. For near-broke local governments, this means a shrinking tax base, new foreclosures, and more citizens and companies in need of handouts.
But what if there were a way to simultaneously revive this flagging industry, slash energy use, and reduce carbon emissions using federal stimulus cash? And what if the strategy generated all sorts of jobs and filled government coffers and kept people in their homes—even people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the construction?
Sounds like a fantasy, but Santa Fe-based architect Edward Mazria has done the math, and his "14x" plan, which he calculates will generate $14 in private spending for every stimulus buck spent, is creating major buzz in city halls and statehouses across the country.