[Ed. Note: written by Steve McBrady]

Starbucks coffee has always been an integral part of what we do here at Green Building Law Update. Until now, it was primarily a means of keeping our readers awake while we write endlessly on Green building and sustainable development in government contracts and in commercial construction, or discuss emerging Green regulatory issues.

Today, however, Starbucks has moved front-and-center for another reason – the announcement, on November 12, 2009, that as of 2010 all new Starbucks stores will be LEED certified:

Over the next six months, Starbucks will build or renovate a minimum of 10 pilot stores in six different bioregions around the world. Once the pilot stores’ environmental strategies are audited and approved, they can be replicated elsewhere. This capability will allow Starbucks to reach its goal of achieving LEED certification for all new company-owned stores worldwide beginning in late 2010.

(Starbucks Press Release)

This is a major development for several reasons, and not simply because of the improved Indoor Environmental Quality our readers will enjoy as they wait in line for a grande skim chai latte (sans foam). Starbucks’ announcement comes on the heels of Marriott International Inc.’s announcement this week that it will dramatically expand its green hotel portfolio over the next five years by introducing a new LEED® hotel prototype for its Courtyard brand.

The green hotel prototype, which will be available in April 2010, will save owners approximately $100,000 and six months in design time, and reduce a hotel’s energy and water consumption by up to 25 percent, based on national averages. These savings, combined with incentives offered in many jurisdictions, could provide a payback for the LEED building investment in about two years.

(Marriott Press Release)

In 2010, Marriott also plans to roll out similar green prototypes for its Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites.

So, what does this voluntary move toward LEED mean for Green building law? Well, in the distant past, we discussed the D.C. Green Building Act of 2006, which at the time was considered ground-breaking legislation because it required private developers to meet certain LEED criteria on buildings over 50,000 square feet. What these announcements signify, however, is the emergence of a Green building movement within the private sector.

How will federal, state, and local governments react to being out-Greened by the private sector? Stay tuned.