Report: More cities have green-building programs
In an effort to spotlight the growth and effectiveness of green building policies in U.S. cities, the institute commissioned a study of communities with populations greater than 50,000. The study yielded a report—titled “Local Leaders in Sustainability”—which analyzes 661 communities’ best practices, strategies and trends and provides recommendations for cities that would like to implement green building programs.
Among the findings:
- One in seven cities surveyed currently have green building programs.
- Based on current projections, one in five cities will have green building programs by next year.
- Thirty-nine percent of citizens live in cities with green building programs.
- Thirty-six cities are in an advanced stage of developing a green building program.
“Sustainable design practices have the potential to transform the built environment from an energy-intensive past toward a more energy-efficient, green future,” said Paul Mendelsohn, American Institute of Architects vice president, government and community relations. “Technological advances now allow for the design of buildings that are efficient, modern, possess great aesthetics and are financially viable. High premiums for green buildings are no longer the case as costs are coming more in line with traditional building practices.”
Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Portland paving the way
The report includes a number of case studies detailing green building initiatives in various U.S. cities. Among them:
- Portland, Ore., offers income tax credit for green building and for projects that promote energy conservation, recycling, renewable energy and cleaner fuels. The Oregon Department of Energy has awarded 13,000 tax credits of 35 percent of eligible project costs.
- San Francisco established the Generation Solar program to amend its building code and streamline the process for solar permitting in residential applications. The program provides assistance with design and installation and has resulted in nearly 600 solar installations citywide.
- Scottsdale, Ariz., was the first city to mandate LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for municipal buildings. In 2005, one-third of all new single-family permits adhered to green building standards, with 1,123 green single-family and 20 multi-family homes having been completed as of 2007.
- Chicago has more LEED-registered projects than any other U.S. city. The city’s Green Roof Program offers $5,000 grants to help with the planning and installation of green roofs. As of 2006, there were more than 250 public and private green projects in place, being designed or under construction, which amounts to approximately 3 million square feet.
- Austin, Texas, established the first green building program in the country. A climate-protection plan will have city buildings running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2012 and completely carbon-neutral by 2020.
- Atlanta had the most LEED buildings per capita in the country in 2006. The city’s EarthCraft Communities program is a community guideline that emphasizes walkability, environmental site-plan development and an overall integrated-planning approach.
Recommendations for local program development
The report includes a number of recommendations for local program development. Among them, the report suggests that communities:
- Hire a director of sustainability within the mayor’s or permitting department to coordinate multiple departments to develop the most well-rounded program.
- Train and accredit municipal employees on the rating systems that will be used by the community.
- Collaborate with professionals in the design and construction industry when developing a green building program.
- Maintain consistency in requirements and standards throughout the community.
- Investigate far-reaching sustainability initiatives, including green purchasing programs, hybrid fleets and streamlining the solar permitting process.
- Contact local American Institute of Architects chapters for the insights of architects who serve on their respective Committee on the Environment and who have been involved in developing local green building programs.
“When we spoke with local officials that have not undertaken a green building program, the prevailing notion was that they considered themselves behind—even backwards—in their approach to addressing environmental challenges,” Mendelsohn said. “To help spur adoption of green building programs across the country, the AIA has partnered with both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties to offer our resources for their members.”
The American Institute of Architects has developed a “SustAIAnability 2030 Tool Kit” to assist cities that are interested in implementing green building programs. In early 2008, the institute will be issuing “50to50”—a range of 50 sustainable design principles that, according to the institute, can help achieve a 50 percent reduction in project fossil fuel consumption.
For more information from the report, click here.