One of the first real conversations I had through Green Building Law Update was with Erica Bannerman. Erica was kind enough to ask me a loaded question about Virginia municipalities mandating green building while complying with Dillon’s Rule (turns out, municipalities can’t mandate green building). I soon found out that Erica is a Senior Environmental Specialist with the City of Alexandria. Alexandria is in the process of revising its green building policies so I thought Erica would make for a great interview. Enjoy!
Chris: What can you tell me about Alexandria’s plans to revise the city’s green building policies?
Erica: Green Buildings are a major component of the City’s commitment to sustainable development. The City has required that its own buildings meet high environmental standards for several years and asks private developers to look to green solutions for their buildings. Furthermore, the City’s initiatives through its Strategic Plan and Eco-City/Action PlanCharter established the broad policy foundation for a wider and stronger green building practice for the future.
For several years, all major development applications have been reviewed for compliance with an established checklist of environmental factors, applicants have been given information on recycling building materials, and approvals have included conditions requiring such green elements as green roofs, cisterns, and energy efficient appliances. While the checklist and guidelines are voluntary, Staff and applicants negotiate to achieve the highest number of LEED or equivalent points as possible, and the City’s efforts have resulted in a long list of recent green projects.
In 2008, the City’s Planning and Zoning staff with the assistance of the City’s Green Building Workgroup began developing a Green Building Policy. The proposed Green Building Policy identifies specific rating systems for nonresidential and residential development as well as the specific level of certification expected. The policy statement applies equally to public and private development and identifies projects that require a Development Site Plan (DSP) or Development Special Use Permit (DSUP) as those to which the policy applies. Smaller projects, such as a simple house addition, which do not require Planning Commission or City Council approval, will not be subject to the policy.
Additional highlights of the proposed policy include:
- The policy is a strong statement of expectations by the City. It is not a mandatory regulation.
- LEED-Silver will be the expected level of achievement for all nonresidential buildings;
- The policy includes the possibility of phasing and room for flexibility for nonstandard buildings and uses;
- The policy anticipates significant outreach and education and requires a partnership with the building and development community.
Chris: How will Alexandria apportion responsibility for attaining green building certification of public projects or demonstrating energy efficiency improvements.
Erica: Based upon the proposed policy, certification of compliance with green building standards will be provided by independent and accredited third party professionals retained by the applicant and approved in advance by the Director of Planning and Zoning. The City will require the applicant to achieve the green standard approved in its development application within two years of issuance of a certificate of occupancy.
Chris: What factors do you think will most contribute to the growth of the green building industry in the D.C. metro area?
Erica: The factors that will most contribute to the growth of the industry are: (1) the pro-green Administration; (2) businesses transitioning to a carbon-constrained economy; and (3) the demand from consumers for more ecologically responsible buildings and development. The carbon-constrained economy will have the greatest impact because companies will no longer be able to externalize the negative impacts buildings have on the climate and environment.