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Environment and Energy

Green Buildings by Mandate

ACCE Webmaster on Friday, June 26, 2009 at 7:21:52 pm

An article in the July issue of Shopping Centers Today, the International Council of Shopping Center's industry magazine, highlights a growing regulatory trend - mandated green building standards for new construction.

Cities, rather than states or the feds, are leading the push for green building standards. The SCT article sites a 2006 mandate in Washington, D.C. which demands that "all new private developments over 50,000 square feet meet at least the lowest LEED standard."  Boston followed suit in 2007 with a similar law that also included green standard obligations for some renovation projects.  San Francisco took green building mandates a step further in 2008 with "an ordinance that applies green building standards to new commercial structures over 5,000 square feet... (and) to residential buildings taller than 75 feet."

The first state to implement mandatory green building standards will likely be California where an existing voluntary green building code is set to be phased in as regulation.

What does this trend toward green building regulation mean?  It certainly has the potential to add time and headaches to the building permitting process.  It will also impact architecture and engineering firms that are not well versed in green building standards.  Added cost to new building projects is also a concern, however there are examples of green buildings that have been constructed at or below the cost of a similar conventional building. 

A 2003 US Department of Energy report titled The Business Case for Sustainable Design in Federal Facilitiescites six large scale green building projects, including one in the private sector, with an initial cost closely comparable to or even less than that of a similar conventional construction project.  The private sector case study from this report, a Herman Miller complex in Zeeland, Michigan, was constructed at a cost of $89 per square foot, a figure $46 less than they spent on another traditional office building, yielding a savings of over 4 million dollars.  Click HERE for a link to the US DOE report.

The US Green Building Council also argues that green buildings can also lead to long term cost savings through reduced operating costs by using less energy and water, and improved productivity through lower employee illness and absenteeism due to improved indoor air quality.

The US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for green buildings has been around for more than a decade and is the most widely recognized green building standard.  The US GBC website describes the LEED program as:

"...third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts."

Last year's ACCE Convention was held in Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the largest LEED gold certified green convention center in America.  The Raleigh Convention Center, where we'll be for the 2009 Convention, expects results from their LEED certification application this summer.

For more on this issue, check out the Green Building Issue Brief from ACCE's Policy Clearinghouse.org.

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