Buildings contribute significantly to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change. Nearly one quarter of California’s annual GHG emissions can be attributed to buildings. Significant GHG emission reductions can be achieved through the design and construction of new green buildings as well as the sustainable operation and renovation of existing buildings. Below is a list of green building climate actions that local governments can take to achieve measurable GHG savings. Please visit the other sections of the toolkit as well for specific recommendations on ways to save energy, use renewable energy, save water, recycle and cut waste, and buy green.
Green buildings are energy, water, and material efficient structures constructed with low-emitting products that contribute to healthy indoor air quality. Sustainably-sited green buildings encourage alternative transportation, installation of environmentally preferable building materials, and construction and demolition waste recycling. Also known as high performance buildings, green buildings that incorporate proper daylighting and adequate ventilation result in increased productivity for building occupants, reduced operating costs, and minimized impacts to the environment.
Establish a Green Building Program
Create a Taskforce to Recommend a Green Building Policy
A Green Building Task Force can be convened to provide guidance on appropriate policy mechanisms that can be employed in both agency and community buildings to achieve GHG reduction goals. This task force can be appointed by the city council and include a variety of stakeholders with a range of perspectives on environmental and policy issues.
Develop and Implement a Green Building Program
Green building programs provide the framework for establishing policies, local guidelines, and incentives.
Provide Green Building Consultation
Local governments have the opportunity to encourage building owners, architects, developers, and contractors to incorporate green building goals early in the building design process. By offering green building consultation, government officials can provide recommendations to incorporate green building design features into new construction and renovation projects.
Provide Green Building Project Tracking
Cities and counties can develop a project evaluation and tracking tool designed to assess the effectiveness and compliance towards achieving your local jurisdictions green building goals.
Offer Incentives to Encourage Green Building
Offer Priority Plan Check or Expedited Permitting for Green Buildings
Expedited permitting provides an incentive for building owners, architects, developers, and contractors to consider green building as part of their construction projects.
Education and Outreach
Offer a Green Building Checklist with Building Permits
Applications for building permits can require a completed Green Building Checklist as part of the plan sets. Checklists can be based on the type of project; single family, multi-family residential and non residential projects. If your local government policy mandates residential construction to meet GreenPoint Rated and commercial projects to achieve LEED certification, the green building checklist can be the same as what is required for third-party certification in these programs.
Policy for Community Action
Adopt a Green Building Ordinance
Green Building Ordinances can help to reduce operating expenses through decrease energy and water bills in municipal buildings, promote economic and environmental health, and set good examples for development in your community. Many local governments have passed ordinances to require new construction of municipal buildings to be certified to the “LEED™ for New Construction” (LEED-NC) third-party green building rating system. Additionally, cities and counties are passing resolutions to mandate that community level projects meet this same standard. Refer to the Green Building Task Force recommendations to establish green building policies.
Adopt Local Level Green Building Codes and Standards
In July 2008, the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) adopted the Green Building Standards Code (GBSC). This initial code provides a first step in ongoing development of statewide green building standards. It is scheduled to become effective in July of 2009. The code will establish mandatory minimum standards for residential buildings in the 2010 edition of the GBSC, anticipated to become effective around January 1, 2011. However, the GBSC will continue to include voluntary “reach” standards that local governments can adopt as mandatory local level building codes.
Encourage Green Development in Master Planned Communities
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a development's location and design meet accepted high levels of environmentally responsible, sustainable development.
Create a Better Policy Framework
Want to create holistic policies that address the many facets of building efficiency, energy consumption, and carbon emissions? Rocky Mountain Institute's (RMI) report "Cost-Effective Ways Cities Can Cut Carbon, Slash Costs, and Create Jobs" highlights policy solutions from RMI's Carbon-Free City Handbook.
San Francisco Green Building Task Force Signed into Law in August 2008, the code mandates large residential and commercial buildings to be evaluated under the LEED rating system. All medium and small residential construction will be certified in compliance with the GreenPoint rating system.
City of San Francisco's Municipal Climate Change Initiatives In 2008, San Francisco became one of the first US cities to require its city departments to develop annual climate action plans outlining steps to improve the environment.
City of Palo Alto Green Building Standards Effective in July 2008, the city requires LEED-NC for commercial buildings and GreenPoint Rated certification for new residential construction.
West Hollywood’s Mandatory Green Building Ordinance Effective in October 2007, all city-owned facilities shall be certified as LEED buildings and new development shall meet the City’s green building point system.
Build It Green offers strategic assistance and a roadmap for local governments interested in promoting green building in their communities.
Institute for Local Government Climate Action ILG offers a Best Practices Framework, which provides suggestions for local actions in ten climate leadership action areas. Green building is one climate leadership opportunity area. ILG CCAN also offers links to federal and state agencies.