Building Codes Gone Green

From Boston to Austin to L.A., more and more cities across the U.S. are making efforts to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental impact by instituting green building codes.
February 5, 2009, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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"Up to now, state and local governments have viewed green buildings as trophy properties, intended to make showy, if piecemeal, statements of environmental awareness. They built green city halls (Austin, Texas), green high schools (Ft. Collins, Colorado) and green libraries (Fayetteville, Arkansas), among other civic structures. Boston's experience regulating private-sector construction suggests that municipalities can push the green-building movement further and faster, by burrowing its principles into the mundane details of their building codes."

"More cities have followed suit. Last April, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to adopt green mandates for the private sector. Then in August, San Francisco adopted the strictest codes of any U.S. city so far, requiring green construction for any residential building taller than 75 feet and any commercial building of more than 5,000 square feet. Washington, D.C.'s law takes effect in 2012. Each city is mandating green building in slightly different ways, but all of them have settled on the U.S. Green Building Council's well-known "LEED" certification as the standard for what it means to be green."

"Nationwide, buildings account for 72 percent of electricity consumption. Depending on how that power is made, buildings can account for anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent of a city's carbon dioxide emissions."

"Indeed, as mayors set out to translate lofty climate-change goals into real reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions, they'll quickly find they have no choice but to scrub the whole skyline clean."

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Published on Sunday, February 1, 2009 in Governing
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