In the past decade there has been a rapid increase in the number of communities instituting so-called “green” building codes. These are programs and codes designed to increase the environmental standards of commercial and residential builders.
In the United States, over 275 communities have such codes and programs. Many are city or county codes, but in some cases states have instituted green codes and a number of Native tribes have also created such codes. For example, the state of Washington requires all new buildings to meet one of three green standards in order to receive state funding.
Almost all of these codes meet or exceed the federal guidelines for energy conservation with some communities going far beyond the national standards. These practices include the conservation of water and energy, the use of recycled or sustainable building materials, and the inclusion of features that significantly reduce water and power costs once the building is in use.
Here are some of the more common items included in green building codes around the country:
- International Green Construction Code standards
- LEED certification
- gray water systems
- moisture protection
- air leakage reduction
- thermal resistance standards
- solar permits
- straw bale construction (tribal codes)
- limited density rural dwellings
- innovative construction methods
- energy-efficient lighting design
- green plumping systems and products
- rainwater use
In the case of incentive programs, many communities are offering extensive education and training as well as technical assistance for those who use green building techniques. Others offer actual monetary incentives, such as per square foot rebates for projects that meet the standards of a specific building challenge or program.
Builders around the country should always seek advice from a qualified attorney as well as the county, city, state, or tribal authority regarding which building programs and codes are in effect in their jurisdiction.
Below is a webinar providing information on the planning process, entitled “Which Commercial Green Building Code, Standard, or Program to Adopt”
Alicia Waterston is a columnist and blogger. She covers a wide range of legal topics, from Supreme Court decisions to the activities of Denver lawyers to the application of laws in daily life. Her work has appeared on numerous news and legal blogs.