USGBC Supports Proposed Green Code

Here at Green Building Law Update, we remain troubled by the disbanding of the proposed ASHRAE 189.1 green building code committee, but we have to point out one bright spot. 

As you may recall, last week we  discussed the merits of the “Proposed Standard 189: Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings" and the disbanding of a committee that was to create the code, apparently due to pressures from industry groups.   After the committe was dissolved,  the USGBC voiced strong support for the green buiding code: 

Brendan Owens, vice president for LEED Technical Development at USGBC, told EBN that it was “very surprised at this action taken by ASHRAE,” adding that USGBC is trying to learn more about ASHRAE’s reasons.
“We want to make sure that this is the best path forward,” Owens said. Acknowledging the uncertainty about Standard 189, Owens noted that a minimum green building standard that can be incorporated into codes is “so fundamental to everything USGBC is about, we are very committed to making sure it happens.”
In previous posts, we have discussed the problems with governments requiring LEED certification through regulation.  Apparently, the USGBC also recognizes these problems.  By strongly supporting the proposed green building code, the USGBC seems to recognize that governments should be mandating green building strategies through construction codes.  

Do you think governments should require green building certification or compliance with green building codes?  Or both? 
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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Rich Cartlidge - November 10, 2008 12:58 PM

I am troubled by both potential mechanisms. I think that both incorporating green standards into a building code and requiring certification raise the question of where do states and municipalities find the power to require building green.
Certain elements of the building code such as requirements for certain framing and fire prevention measures to be taken clearly have roots in a states power to regulate the general health and well being of its citizens.
While green building certainly makes for a healthier environment and healthier living conditions does it rise to the same level as ensuring a building does not collapse or spread fire to neighboring structures?
Perhaps the answer is not requiring green building but instead implementing a system where tax incentives are made so attractive that not building green fails to make sense.

Jeffrey Howell - November 11, 2008 1:44 AM

I agree with Rich. I am also troubled by both approaches and there could be endless debate on both sides of those issues. I also agree that tax incentives should be initiated at least at this stage. However, I am most interested in seeing technology and capitalism overcome the challenges presented by cost effective green building.

Chris Cheatham - November 11, 2008 9:51 AM


That is a great comment and you have touched on another issue regarding green buiding codes: federalism. A judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico recentely struck down the city's proposed green buiding codes because the codes were preempted by federal energy efficiency codes. I will be writing more on this interesting topic in the future.


Chris Cheatham - November 11, 2008 9:56 AM


Thanks for the great comment and contributing to this discussion. While I agree that government incentives for green buildings may be the way to go, these types of incentives could actually result in more litigation and conflict. For example, I have written about Southern Builders v. Shaw Development, a case that arose when a party failed to obtain green building tax incentives.


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