The Maryland Green Building Council recommended a broad and deep expansion of green building leasing by state government and the Maryland Department of General Services has agreed to enlarge what is a “high performance building” for the purposes of state government leasing.

The regulatory change is being widely heralded as a dramatic step forward in expanding green building in the State and across the country, not only because of its efficacy (i.e., it will result in significantly more green building), but because it is a voluntary incentive to private landlords who want to lease to the state that is leading by example (and not creating another mandate from on high).

Maryland has for more than a decade had a statutory requirement that new construction projects 100% funded by the State’s capital budget must meet or exceed the current version of LEED. And in recent years the state has expanded that requirement to allow IgCC and Green Globes constructed building to satisfy the mandate.

But Maryland 100% funds the construction of very few new buildings each year (e.g., public private partnerships are the de rigueur). What the state continues to do is lease buildings and space within existing buildings, however despite a vibrant leasing program little of that space is actually green. This action by the Maryland Green Building Council seeks to buttress leasing of green buildings including significantly encouraging the greening of existing buildings.

The specifics of this are not sexy. This was a change to the “Office of Real Estate, Department of General Services, General Performance Standards and Specifications for the State of Maryland Lease Facilities” last revised July 2013. In those specifications, the Maryland DGS “has established a set of selection criteria for the evaluation of RFP submissions: for those who propose to lease to the state. “Proposal criteria will be evaluated and awarded a value from 0 to 15.”

These changes improve the 2013 specifications including to make them applicable to leases for a tenant space within and existing building, not just a whole building lease (as had been the goal in the past),

e.  In the event the proposed Leased Space is less than a whole building, the appropriate green building system may certify the existing building (e.g., LEED Operations and Maintenance Silver) the Leased Space (e.g. LEED Commercial Interiors Gold) – 35 Value Points.

The revised specifications now apply to lease renewals (a major change when the majority of Maryland DGS leasing activity is a renewal and not a lease of new space),

g.  In the event of a proposed renewal of a lease (i.e., beyond the last stated renewal term), as an alternative to item c and d above, and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score of 75 – 25 Value Points.

And there are other positive changes in that the specification is no longer LEED only, when it provides,

3.a.  High Performance Building Plus (i.e., LEED Gold Certified, Three Green Globes, NGBS Gold, or the equivalent, in a current and appropriate green building system) – 30 Value Points.

And there are other forward thinking edits to the specifications, like, “the State of Maryland will own and control all information and data associated with the building including but not limited to energy and water data and other data associated with High Performance Building, and such information and data shall be considered proprietary may not be disclosed in any manner to a third party without the prior written consent of the State.”

Maryland is already among the greenest places on the planet and was recognized at #5 on the USGBC’s Top 10 States For LEED In 2017.  When this recommendation becomes final in the coming days, Maryland will become even more green.

This is an exciting expansion of green building. This is voluntary. No one in Maryland is required to do anything by this regulatory change, but if a project developer wants to lease to the state there are real incentives for building green.

And maybe most important, this type of government action leading through example and encouraging positive is an ideal model to be replicated elsewhere, resulting in more green building everywhere.

I would be remiss if I did not make the reader aware that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan appointed me to the Maryland Green Building Council in 2017 and I was pleased to participate in this recommendation.