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Green Buildings




A Legislative Brief for the Center for State Innovation


Model Legislation for Green Buildings
Energy costs are skyrocketing and will continue to increase.
 
Between 2003 and 2005, the price of heating oil increased 51 percent, gasoline increased 47 percent, diesel increased 39 percent, and natural gas increased 37 percent.[1]
Heating costs for the winter of 2005-2006 jumped by 30 to 40 percent compared to the previous year. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that energy prices will likely continue to rise because of tight worldwide supply and increased U.S. demand.[2]
 In 2006, the United States is expected to consume more than 100 quadrillion BTUs of energy—over one-sixth of the energy consumption of the entire world.[3]
  
The generation of energy causes pollution and contributes to global warming.
 
Power generating plants are the single worst industrial contributor to air pollution in the United States, pouring sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury, as well as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, into our atmosphere.[4]
 
Greenhouse gases absorb sunlight that reflects off the Earth’s surface, creating a blanket of heated gas around the Earth. A rapid increase in greenhouse gases is causing climate change around the world, including global warming, altered weather patterns, and more cases of severe weather.
  
Buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.[5]
   
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that buildings have a huge impact on our consumption of energy and the quality of our environment. In addition to overall energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, the EPA reports that buildings account for 68 percent of total electricity consumption and 12 percent of total water consumption in the United States.[6]
 
If we want to get energy use and pollution under control, we must focus on standards for new and existing buildings.
   
Green building standards help preserve the environment.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a flexible, non-bureaucratic standard for the construction and maintenance of new or existing buildings. LEED standards were developed by the U.S. Green Buildings Council—which represents all segments of the building industry—and emphasize energy and water savings, use of recycled materials, and indoor air quality.
  
Green building standards save money for taxpayers.
 
Green buildings cut energy costs by 30 percent, and water costs by 20 percent.[7]
 
A study in California found that for a $5 million project, a $100,000 investment in green building features results in a $1 million savings over the life of the building.[8]
 
As energy prices rise, savings from green buildings will increase. If well planned, there is no significant difference in construction costs for LEED-compliant buildings versus non-LEED buildings.[9]
  
Green buildings boost the performance of workers and students.
 
The improved air quality and increased natural sunlight in green buildings have a positive impact on both psychological and physical health. Green buildings are proven to improve student performance and reduce worker absenteeism.[10]
 
A Pittsburgh, PA company that adopted LEED standards experienced an 83 percent reduction in voluntary employee termination.[11]
  
Green building standards do not burden architects or builders.
 
LEED standards use a point system to measure 34 criteria and denote varying degrees of efficiency and environmental impact. A rating of platinum, gold, silver or basic is granted, depending on the number of points scored. The point system means that a builder or architect can achieve LEED standards in different ways. Points are earned for meeting specific goals in energy efficiency, water use, building materials, and ventilation.[12]
  
Several states have enacted high-performance green building laws.
Washington’s 2005 law, the first in the country, requires that new buildings and renovations that exceed 5,000 square feet must meet LEED standards. Arizona, Hawaii and Utah enacted similar efficiency standard laws in 2006. Also in 2006, the Wisconsin governor issued an executive order requiring higher energy efficiency standards in state buildings. Four more states (MD, NJ, NY, OR) offer tax incentives for buildings with greater energy efficiency.
 

Model Legislation

Green Buildings Act

Summary: The Green Buildings Act adopts LEED standards for the construction or renovation of public buildings over 5,000 square feet in size.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Green Buildings Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
 
(A) FINDINGS—
The legislature finds that:
 
1. Energy costs for public buildings are skyrocketing and will likely continue to increase.
2. Energy use by public buildings contributes substantially to the problems of pollution and global warming.
3. Public buildings can be built and renovated using high-performance methods that save energy costs, preserve the environment, and make workers and students more productive.
 
(B) PURPOSE—
This law is enacted to more efficiently spend public funds and protect the health and welfare of [State] residents.
 
SECTION 3. GREEN BUILDINGS
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
 
(A) DEFINITIONS—
In this section:
 
1. “Department” means the Department [of General Administration].
2. “LEED silver standard” means the United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating standard referred to as silver standard.
3. “Major facility project” means:
a. A building construction project larger than 5,000 gross square feet of occupied or conditioned space; or
b. A building renovation project when the cost is greater than 50 percent of the assessed value and the project is larger than 5,000 gross square feet of occupied or conditioned space.
4. “Public agency” means every state office, board, commission, committee, bureau, department or public institution of higher education.
(B) GREEN BUILDINGS STANDARDS
1. All major facility projects of public agencies shall be designed, constructed and certified to at least the LEED silver standard. This provision applies to major facility projects that have not entered the design phase prior to October 1, 2007.
2. All major facility projects of a public school district, where the project receives any funding from the state capital or operating budget, shall be designed, constructed and certified to at least the LEED silver standard. This provision applies to major facility projects that have not entered the design phase prior to January 1, 2008.
3. All major facility projects by any person, corporation or entity other than a public agency or public school district, where the project receives any funding from the state capital or operating budget, shall be designed, constructed and certified to at least the LEED silver standard. This provision applies to major facility projects that have not entered the grant application process prior to January 1, 2008.
4. A major facility project does not have to meet the LEED silver standard if:
a. There is no appropriate LEED silver standard for that type of building or renovation project. In such case, the Department will set lesser green building standards that are appropriate to the project.
b. There is no practical way to apply the LEED silver standard to a particular building or renovation project. In such case, the Department will set lesser green building standards that are appropriate to the project.
c. The building or renovation project is an electricity transmitter building, a water pumping station, or a hospital.
(C) ADMINISTRATION AND REPORTS
1. The Department shall promulgate such regulations as are necessary to enforce this section. Those regulations shall include how the Department will determine whether a project qualifies for an exception from the LEED silver standard, and the lesser green building standards that may be imposed on projects that are granted exceptions.
2. The Department shall monitor and document ongoing operating savings that result from major facility projects designed, constructed and certified as meeting the LEED silver standard and annually publish a public report of findings and recommended changes in policy. The report shall also include a description of projects that were granted exceptions from the LEED silver standard, the reasons for exceptions, and the lesser green building standards imposed.
3. The Department shall create a green buildings advisory committee composed of representatives from the design and construction industry involved in public works contracting, personnel from affected public agencies and school boards that oversee public works projects, and others at the Department’s discretion to provide advice on implementing this section. The advisory committee shall make recommendations regarding an education and training process and an ongoing evaluation or feedback process to help the Department implement this section.
 
(D) PROTECTION FROM LIABILITY—
No person, corporation or entity shall be held liable for the failure of a major facility project to meet the LEED silver standard or other standard established for the project as long as a good faith attempt was made to achieve the standard set for the project.
 
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2007.


[1] U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “Short-Term Energy Outlook,” November 8, 2005. 
[2] Ibid. 
[3] Energy Information Administration, “Annual Energy Outlook 2006,” U.S. Department of Energy, Feburary 2006. 
[4] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Green Buildings: Why Build Green?” 2005. 
[5] Ibid. 
[6] Office of the Governor of Washington, “Gov. Gregoire signs bill for first-in-the-nation environmental building standards,” April 8, 2005. 
[7] Greg Katz, “The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings: A Report to California’s Sustainable Building Task Force,” October 2003.
[8] Davis Langdon Seah International, “Costing Green: A Comprehensive Cost Database and Budgeting Methodology,” July 2004.
[9] For studies, see U.S. Green Building Council, “Research: Productivity,” 2005.
[10] “The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings: A Report to California’s Sustainable Building Task Force.”
[11] U.S. Green Buildings Council, “LEED-NC: Green Building Rating System for New Construction or Major Renovations, Version 2.2,” October 2005.
[12] Ibid.