Austin has long been a home for friendly folk- friendly to each other, friendly to animals, and friendly to the environment. What used to be considered as only the concerns of hippies and the bohemian sect, environmentalism is now at the forefront of commercial and residential design, and "green" businesses are popping up nationwide. Austin, however, was the first city in the United States to establish a local green-building program, laying out environmentally friendly and sustainable guidelines for home builders and its interested citizens back in 1991.
Since the Austin real estate market is known nationwide as the leader of these green building methods, the National Association of Home Builders has named the city as its hub to launch an industry-wide effort to establish green-building guidelines in 2004. These guidelines now provide a practical nationally recognized framework for builders to follow to reduce a home's environmental impact by making them more energy efficient, improving indoor environmental quality, and so on. Although Austin has already been using similar guidelines for over a decade, now the rest of the country is following suit.
The City of Austin and Austin Energy provide a great resource to owners of Austin homes, and new home builders, who are looking for ways to conserve energy, and build an environmentally friendly home. The city's website offers a list of companies willing to do an energy analysis of a home that will determine possible options to help the house conserve more energy, with suggestions ranging from air conditioning repair to weather stripping doors. The city then will offer a 20 to 75% of that cost.
For those Austinites building a new house or commercial building, the city created the Austin Energy Green Building organization to promote the construction of high quality, more sustainable buildings, and has even zoned sections of the city's real estate to require an Austin Energy Green Building rating . Four times a year, the organization also holds a one day "Green By Design" workshop open to the public. The workshop provides an overview of the green building process, and partnerships in design, building, engineering, landscaping, and Austin real estate professionals with many years of experience in homebuilding and remodeling, to help make sense of it all.
In March of this year, Austin was named as the city leading the country in "cleantech" by SustainLane, an online resource center that offers sustainability tips to state and local government. The term "cleantech" refers to venture capital-based startups based in green technology, with Austin as the front runner with seven such startups, ranging from internet-controlled irrigation to geothermal energy technologies. To keep Austin on the cutting edge of green technology, the Clean Energy Incubator program was set up to help young clean energy businesses succeed by commercializing their ideas. With citizens, government, and forward thinking businesses, Austin will likely be the city to follow in the environmental battle for years to come.