J. Cullen Howe: LEED Standards in Green Building Laws

As green buildings become more prevalent, more and more states and municipalities are adopting laws and regulations that either require or recommend that new buildings incorporate the U.S. Green Building Councils Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, commonly known as LEED. J. Cullen Howe of Arnold & Porter LLPs New York office describes the concept of green buildings, explains the background and development of LEED, and reviews the different types of green building laws passed at the state and municipal level. He also recommends steps that attorneys should take when advising clients about the costs and benefits of green buildings, as well as what they should be aware of when beginning construction. He writes:
     “Green building” is the practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal. Green buildings are built to efficiently use land and energy, conserve water, improve indoor and outdoor air quality, conserve resources, and increase the use of recycled materials. Many green building practices are incorporated into building rating systems. One advantage of these systems is that they provider [sic] buyers, sellers and lenders an objective standard to measure the environmental impacts of new and existing buildings. The most widely-used building-rating system is the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, otherwise known as LEED®.
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     LEED uses a points system for specific steps taken in connection with a project in six general categories: (1) site selection; (2) water efficiency; (3) energy and atmosphere; (4) materials and resources; (5) indoor environmental air quality; and (6) innovation and design quality. Project developers must satisfy a number of prerequisites in most of the six categories and achieve a certain number of points before a building can attain LEED certification. Projects are awarded specific ratings depending on the number of points achieved. Different LEED rating systems have varied scoring systems based on a set of required prerequisites and a variety of credits in the six major categories listed above. . . .
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     From 2003 to 2007, the number of U.S. cities with green building programs rose dramatically, from 22 to 92, an increase of more than 400 percent. This includes more than 25 cities that have established some type of goals for new public buildings to meet some level of LEED standards. Municipalities have enacted green building policies by resolution (Eugene and Portland, Oregon; Bowie, Maryland); executive order (Albuquerque, New Mexico; Salt Lake City, Utah); legislation (Baltimore County, Maryland); and ordinance (Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; San Mateo County, California). In addition, many municipalities have adopted or are proposing to adopt mandatory or aspirational goals for private buildings.
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