Tuesday, July 1, 2008

America is Going Green

All across America communities big and small changing the way they think and going green by requiring new buildings to meet national standards for conserving energy and water resources.

Business Facilities.com: "When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a comprehensive green building law in April, Los Angeles became the largest American city to date to enact strict environmental standards on private-sector construction. It joined a growing list of U.S. cities that either require or offer incentives for companies to "go green" by building or retrofitting their facilities using sustainable designs and materials.

Washington D.C., through its Green Building Act of 2006, was the first major U.S. city to mandate green construction for all privately owned real estate, requiring that all new development in the city conform to the standards of the United States Green Building Council's (USGBC) rating system, known as LEED (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design).

Washington is expanding this mandate in 2008 to include all publicly financed buildings, and construction of private buildings of at least 50,000 square feet, starting in 2012. The city has since 2006 offered an array of incentives, including expedited permit reviews, grants, and technical assistance for green buildings.

Boston went a step further than Washington last year when it adopted a zoning code that brought renovation projects for existing buildings into the fold. Boston has since January 2007 required all new and rehabilitation projects of more than 50,000 square feet to earn either LEED certification or approval by the Boston Interagency Council, which incorporates LEED checklist items and Boston-specific credits involving transportation, energy, historic preservation and groundwater recharge.

Numerous other jurisdictions, big and small, across the country have jumped on board the green building movement, crafting a diverse array of laws designed to lessen their communities' impact on global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is just the beginning, says Brooks Rainwater, director of local relations for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Rainwater's recent study, "Local Leaders in Sustainability," reveals that 14% of U.S. cities with populations of more than 50,000 have green building programs, and many more are about to follow suit.

"We have been seeing this happen at an impressive rate over the last few years, as cities across the country pass green building laws that focus not only on public buildings, but [which] also incentivise green development in the private sector," Rainwater says.

"From 2003 to 2007, the number of cities with green building programs grew by 418%, from 22 to 92. Another 36 cities, as of last summer, were in the process of developing green building programs. The future for green design looks bright, as we move toward a sustainable build environment that would not be possible without local leadership and strong citizen involvement," he adds.

"Going green" is no longer the wave of the future—it increasingly has become a central feature of today's building practices. Developers and corporate executives have recognized that sustainable, energy-efficient buildings may come with a cost premium, but can also bring immediate and long-term financial rewards. Green development increasingly has become a prime agenda item in boardrooms when new construction is being discussed. For a developer, returns can come in the form of higher sales and rents; tenants can save on energy and utility costs.

According to Kenny McDonald, executive vice president of the Charlotte Regional Partnership and a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, building with sustainable design yields cost savings for companies committed not only to following the proper guidelines, but who also set out to plan their buildings in ways that will save money.

"The whole rationale is to cut your energy usage and to conserve more," McDonald says. "Your waste disposal is going to be smarter and hopefully that will reduce your cost, and there also are tax credits that provide direct cost advantages."

Major players who have emerged in green building include Bank of America, Wachovia, and Toyota. "These companies are deeply committed, but they're also very smart about how they do it. Companies that are [superficially going green] to gain a marketing advantage probably are not saving much money right now," McDonald notes."

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