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Since the beginning of the modern environmental era in the 1970s, the focus of federal and state air pollution programs has been primarily on industrial and manufacturing facilities that emit significant quantities of pollutants. To the extent that commercial and residential buildings came under the regulatory microscope, it was usually due to the presence of damaged asbestos, lead-based paint, or leaking underground storage tanks.
However, the building sector is the largest source of carbon emissions when direct emissions and energy-related emissions are taken into account. Buildings also consume the most energy in the United States of any sector, with residential and commercial buildings responsible for 39.4 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States.
As a result, over 100 state and local governments have adopted initiatives to encourage or mandate the use of green or energy-efficient buildings to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of those jurisdictions.
Environmental benefit is not the only reason why building owners and tenants are turning to green buildings. Because of greater efficiencies, green buildings have lower operating and maintenance costs over the life of the building.