Sustainability mandates are on the way

Sustainability policies are on the rise in governmental circles, and will increasingly influence the shape of urban development.

Washington, DC, adopted green building standards in 2006, and they went into effect in March 2007. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning says that as of October 2007 all newly constructed public buildings in the capital will have to meet LEED Silver standards. Residential projects 10,000 square feet or more must meet ‘Green Communities’ standards. Starting in October 2008, any building receiving 15 percent or more public funding will have to meet the same standards as public buildings. And by 2012, private sector nonresidential construction projects of 50,000 square feet or more must meet LEED standards, at the certification level. “By 2025, most rooftops in DC will be green,” Tregoning predicts.

The city’s overall strategy also calls for reducing vehicle miles — in part through a streetcar and bus rapid transit network, on top of the Metro rail system — and by requiring street connectivity and increasing the availability of neighborhood retail.

Montgomery County, Maryland, also requires LEED compliance for some private projects. New York City adopted a green building law, effective in January 2007, which applies only to municipal projects.

In December, Greensburg, Kansas, which was devastated by a tornado the previous May, became the first city in the US to require that all new city-owned buildings achieve a LEED Platinum designation. The Council decided that city-owned buildings larger than 4,000 square feet must gain Platinum status, the highest rating in the LEED Green Building Rating System. The buildings will be required to bring their energy consumption 42 percent below what had been allowed by the city’s building code.

Greensburg had a population of only 1,400 before the tornado, yet 10 commercial and public buildings have already committed to becoming LEED-certified as part of the community’s “Green Initiative.”