D.C. Proposes Sweeping Green Building Bill, Greenbuild Underway, New LEED Option, & GreenSource Magazine

Washington, D.C. appears to be on the verge of becoming the largest city in America to formally adopt LEED into a building code that applies to both public and private sector projects. An article in today’s Washington Post provides details about the legislation, which is contained in a bill pending before the D.C. Council. Under [...]

capitol_building_with_construction.jpgWashington, D.C. appears to be on the verge of becoming the largest city in America to formally adopt LEED into a building code that applies to both public and private sector projects. An article in today’s Washington Post provides details about the legislation, which is contained in a bill pending before the D.C. Council.

Under the bill, within two years all new District-owned projects, including schools, would have to meet the green standards, and in 2009, any building receiving more than 20 percent public financing would have to do the same. By 2012, every new commercial building over 50,000 square feet — about the size of a medium-size retail store — would have to meet the guidelines. The rules would also apply to affordable housing.

This is obviously great news for USGBC and LEED. Should D.C. proceed to enact the legislation, it would lend even more support for USGBC’s claims that LEED is “the most credible green building rating system.” That may very well be true, but to me it kind of makes USGBC sound like a used car salesman, and some folks in D.C. aren’t happy with the proposal.

Lobbyists for some factions of the building industry are fighting to get communities to institute more lenient standards, said Bill Hall, a lawyer who represents building material manufacturers.

“Failure to include these other rating systems would be like the D.C. Council mandating that only Google’s search engine can be used in the District to the exclusion of Yahoo and AOL because Google is the most widely used,” Hall said.

While Hall’s concerns are well-founded, what strikes me as even more salient is whether anyone can guess what LEED will look like in 2012. Right now, at Greenbuild, USGBC is purportedly rolling out some concepts for LEED Version 3.0. To me, it seems extremely dangerous for any municipality to obligate itself (over the course of the next five years, no less!) to conforming with a system that (1) is about to undergo massive structural changes and (2) remains riddled with bureaucratic problems and subject to constant criticism by practitioners.

Speaking of Greenbuild, USGBC is blogging about the happenings out in Denver, and I’ll be following up with a detailed post of this week’s events once Greenbuild winds down over the weekend.

Sticking with USGBC and LEED, yesterday’s Wall Street Journal contained a blurb in its Property Report section (Alex Frangos and Jennifer S. Forsyth) about USGBC’s launch of “portfolio certification” for companies and/or organizations that build the same buildings over and over again. For example, retailers or restaurants interested in applying for LEED certification won’t have to do so for each new building independently.

One company that has pushed the Green Building Council for the change is PNC Financial Services Group Inc. And it will be the first beneficiary. Eighteen of its new bank branches, which use 25% to 30% less energy than its old branches and are built from recycled and recyclable materials are set to gain the Green Building Council’s official approval.

“It increases the incentive for retailers who have large rollouts to go through the process,” says Gary Saulson, director of corporate real estate at PNC.

Thanks to DJ for clipping the article for me- I’ve yet to find a press release from USGBC or commentary on the new portfolio option anywhere else online.

Finally, my dad sent me this link to a new publication from McGraw-Hill Construction called GreenSource. Produced in concert with Architectural Record and supported by USGBC, the magazine will be published four times a year and exclusively discuss sustainable design and construction. It looks like it’ll be a great source for green building news and definitely worth checking out.

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4 Responses to D.C. Proposes Sweeping Green Building Bill, Greenbuild Underway, New LEED Option, & GreenSource Magazine

  1. Nancy Anderson Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 5:46 pm #

    I hope the new Washington green building law will require developers and the District to meet at least LEED Silver standards.

  2. Suzanne Kelly Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 7:46 pm #

    As a LEED AP, I hope the legislation will require buildings to have a LEED certification not just a general description as “green”.

  3. Stephen Friday, November 17, 2006 at 4:13 am #

    Thank you both for your comments. I think the problem that’s pointed out in the article is, first, isn’t this supposed to be about green building? If so, should we care whether it’s LEED or Green Globes or just a developer drastically improving over the ASHRAE baseline? I think that’s been one of the more consistent criticisms of LEED. It’s harder than it should be to get certified (look at the numbers from USGBC itself about the number of projects that register but never proceed through to certification). Even if you believe in LEED (which, as a LEED-AP myself, I do) I think it’s risky and somewhat improvident for as large a city as D.C. to sign up for the next five years of a system that’s currently in a state of major flux. LEED Silver might not even exist in 2012- who knows. This could also potentially implicate all sorts of liability for an owner/design team which was obligated to build to a type of LEED certification that’s suddenly changed somehow.

    On the other hand, I have always thought that LEED must tie itself to local programs in order to survive in the long-term. Owners and developers must have some incentive to build green if they’re not persuaded by any perceived financial benefits. The D.C. legislation is a major step in the right direction in this respect, if you’re willing to believe that LEED is heading in the right direction as well.

  4. Amy Stodghill Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 4:53 pm #

    I agree with your concerns about such legislation adhering to a green building standard that is still evolving (and is really only a self-proclaimed national standard, and many who go for LEED seem to try and go for the easy points for a minimal rating…) – however, the impact on the green building industry if this law goes through and is followed would be huge, and the market for associated materials and services would receive a gigantic boon, not to mention setting precedence for other areas still wary of doing the same. On another note, I also think it would be good for the DC area (and other metropolitan places passing similar legislation) to revise LEED to accommodate regional standards to get more bang for the points acheieved (such as portland’s G-rated system).