Local Policy Best Practices for Healthy and High-Performing Buildings: Part 1

Several cities have created their own mandate and justification for supporting green buildings (see a good example from Long Beach here). To the extent that the public may, in some corners, remain skeptical, the City of Pittsburgh may want to craft an overall policy in addition to specific legislation. Municipal policies for the promotion of healthy and high-performing spaces generally fall into one of three categories:

1) mandatory green building criteria,
2) expedited review as an incentive, or
3) other direct financial incentives, including grants, fee waivers, tax breaks, and bonus development.

Many flavors of each have been implemented across the country. In this blog series, I’ll document some best practices and opportunities for consideration by the City of Pittsburgh, and provide links to several resources for further study and research.

First up, a look at examples of mandatory green building criteria

The City of Pittsburgh has already adopted a requirement that all publicly financed development over $2 million or 10,000 square feet must attain LEED Silver certification.

Several-hundred cities have adopted some form of mandatory green building standards. Here are a few noteworthy ones:

Miami–Dade County, FL requires all new county–owned and county–financed facilities to achieve LEED Silver certification. All major renovation projects that have expenses greater than 50% of replacement cost are to achieve LEED Certified. County-owned, -operated, or -financed renovations of less than 50% of replacement cost but more than $1 million are also required to achieve LEED Certi

Boston's Green Affordable Housing Plan

Boston’s Green Affordable Housing Plan

Green Affordable Housing Initiative requires that developers of affordable housing projects who receive public funding must adhere to LEED Silver and ENERGY STAR standards, depending on project size. This initiative is part of Boston’s larger Green Building program.

Cincinnati, OH public schools strive for LEED Silver certification, while requiring that at least four schools achieve LEED Silver certification and one additional school achieves LEED Gold or Platinum.

Anchorage, AK requires all new Anchorage School District buildings and major building renovations over 20,000 sq. ft. to achieve LEED Silver.

Portland, OR requires all existing municipal buildings to earn LEED Silver certification. The city also requires all new municipal buildings to earn LEED Gold certification and all municipally leased facilities to earn LEED Silver.

Pittsburgh’s Office of Performance and Innovation is currently working with GBA and others to craft and implement a mandatory reporting and benchmarking law for energy and water usage that will be embraced by the local real estate community. Cities that already require reporting include: New York; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Seattle; San Francisco; Minneapolis; and several others. Learn more here.

Santa Monica, CA has adopted specific green building criteria that exceed the state of California’s. Pittsburgh could do something similar, but as GBA understands PA law, the state legislature would need to pass legislation allowing Pittsburgh to adopt any codes, even “stretch” codes, that are more stringent than the PA code.

Santa Monica, CA has adopted specific green building criteria that exceed the state of California’s. 

San Francisco similarly developed its own specific requirements, including:

  1. All new construction projects of any size or occupancy must:
    1. Meet the California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen),
    2. Beat California’s Title 24 (2008) Energy Standards by a minimum of 15%,
    3. Meet stringent stormwater management standards, and
    4. Recycle at least 65% of construction and demolition debris, and provide for collection of recycling and compost from occupants in operation.

Washington, D.C. adopted a modified version of the IgCC (International Green Construction Code) as its baseline municipal code. Pittsburgh, we believe, would need authority from the PA state legislature to implement a similar measure, even if done solely as a “stretch code.” Learn more about D.C.’s actions in this press release and article.

Frankfurt’s policy has mandated, since 2005, that all municipal service and residential buildings be constructed to Passive House standards. The city council has also set targets for new office buildings to be designed and built to energy efficiency standards of 150 kWh/m2 (for primary energy use) in the Frankfurt high-rise buildings area. GBA can help the City of Pittsburgh understand the PassivHaus standard in more depth, as desired.

These are many examples of regulations and policies that could somehow be adapted here in Pittsburgh. Let’s get started! If you have other examples, please share them. Otherwise, stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this series. Cheers.

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