While hundreds of governments throughout the United States have adopted programs incentivizing green building, many tied to the LEED rating system, Arlington County, Virginia is the first to tie incentives specifically to the new LEED version 4.

Arlington first adopted its very successful voluntary Green Building Incentive Program in October 1999 offering up to 0.25 floor area ratio (FAR) bonus density in exchange for obtaining a LEED Silver certification. 

The program has been popular with developers in Arlington. Since the first LEED bonus density project was approved, 96 buildings have been approved by the County and of those, 56 have agreed to achieve LEED certification. The voluntary density bonus is so valuable in the suburban DC market that in the last 4 years, all but one building approved committed to LEED certification.

On November 15, 2014, the County Board of Arlington County enacted a new policy enhancing and upgrading the green building density incentive program, effective immediately, but projects accepted by the County before September 30, 2015 may continue to use the LEED 2009 and continue to receive the existing less generous incentives. The key enhancements to the County’s program include:

In exchange for a commitment to achieve LEED Version 4 Silver Certification or above, projects (commercial and residential) may request up to 0.25 FAR bonus for LEED Silver certification; 0.35 FAR bonus for LEED Gold certification; and 0.50 FAR bonus for LEED Platinum certification. All commercial office projects earning bonus density must also agree to earn Energy Star building certification within 4 years of occupancy.

Projects earning bonus density are also eligible to request an additional 0.025 FAR for achieving one of eight Arlington priority credits. Credit will be given for up to two Arlington priority credits, for a total additional bonus density of 0.05 FAR. Those priority credits include: Optimize Energy Performance (9% above the LEED baseline), Additional Optimize Energy Performance (12% above the LEED baseline), Envelope Commissioning, Renewable Energy Production (1% of building energy from renewables), etc.

Projects designed and constructed to achieve at least LEED Gold certification plus two Arlington priority credits plus Net Zero Energy Building certification through the International Living Futures Institute, may earn additional bonus density above 0.55 FAR.

In order to facilitate the construction of high performing “green” affordable housing units, the Program provides that affordable housing projects receiving State tax credits are allowed to earn bonus density using the Earthcraft green building rating system in lieu of LEED for projects designed to achieve the Earthcraft v4 Gold and Platinum certifications.

Arlington’s increase in bonus density tied to LEED v4 is no doubt based on the large success of the prior 15 years of voluntary green building incentives, but make no mistake, this new policy is a huge commitment to greener building in a marketplace that demands all new building be green.