I recently co-authored a chapter with Shari Shapiro of a soon-to-be-published book about green building law.  I am a regular reader Shari’s Green Building Law Blog and she is one of the authors who helped me launch my own blog.

However, I am going to respectfully disagree with one of her recent posts regarding green building legislation. Shari juxtaposed two "green" regulatory measures – one that passed in Europe and one that was vetoed by the Governor of Wisconsin.  Shari concluded the Wisconsin Governor was in the wrong: 

"On the one hand, Europe has determined that it is not only feasible, but necessary to build its entire building stock to a near carbon neutral level, and Wisconsin has determined that it cannot even make 15% of its public buildings green.  What will the competitiveness of Wisconsin–indeed, the entire United States–be if it is saddled with a portfolio of underperforming building stock contributing to greenhouse gas emissions."

The Wisconsin Governor did not actually veto legislation making public buildings green.  The Governor properly vetoed spending state funds to certify public buildings as green:

"The measure had directed all state building funds to be used for certifying at least 15% of total gross square footage of working space in state-owned and leased buildings to meet green building requirements.  Doyle said he remained committed to green building efforts but that he could not support the bill."

For long-time Green Building Law Update readers, this veto should not be a surprise.  Back in October 2008, I pointed out that states may balk at green building regulations if revenues drop:

"[W]hat will happen to all of those states that passed regulations requiring public projects achieve LEED certification?  As you probably know, during economic downturns, less taxes are collected, which affects state budgets. . . . One area where state agencies may seek budget cuts is through green building programs."

Well, there was certainly an economic downturn, tax revenue declined, and state budgets were affected (subscr. req.):

"The latest biannual NGA-NASBO ‘Fiscal Survey of the States,’ released on June 3, says that, for fiscal 2010, which ends for 46 states on June 30, state general-fund expenditures will fall an estimated 6.8%, to $612.9 billion."

Buildings can be "green" without being certified as such.   In fact, certification is primarily a marketing tool to signal a building is green.  Why does a state need a certification to tell the world its buildings are green?

Why do states need to be spending money on green building certification?  Isn’t that money better spent on actually constructing or retrofitting buildings to be green?    Related Links:
  Carbon Neutral Paris? Oui. Carbon Neutral Madison? Non. (Green Building Law Blog)

Doyle Vetoes Green Building Measure (Journal Sentinel)

Can State Budgets Support Green Building? (Green Building Law Update)

Fiscal Squeeze to Continue in 2011 (ENR)(subscr. req.)