Washington – The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors today approved regional “green building” standards for the construction of new government and commercial structures that they hope will be adopted by all local jurisdictions.
The standards the board endorsed were set by the U.S. Green Building Council and establish a four-level point system for rating new construction based on whether the buildings use environmentally friendly designs that are, for example, energy efficient, control storm-water runoff reduce construction-related waste. The standards, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) were developed to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. The COG board is among the first regional bodies to adopt the standards.
“We want to reduce the environmental impact of our building so they sit more lightly on the land,” said Joan Kelsch, chair of COG’s Intergovernmental Green Building Group and an environmental planner for Arlington County. “Buildings are responsible for 70 percent of our electricity use, 38 percent of our carbon dioxide emission and 12 percent of our potable water use.”
Stuart Freudberg, COG’s director of Environmental Planning, added, “The region’s population is nearly 5 million now and it’s expected to be 6.6 million by 2030. The only way we can accommodate growth and maintain our quality of life is to take steps like green building.” He said that like motor vehicle emissions, buildings have a major impact on the environment.
Although so-called “green buildings” were once thought to be too expensive and unattractive, the report presented to the COG board dispelled those ideas. Green building can be a cost-effective solution if done correctly, the report said. Items include highly efficient heating and cooling systems, the use of renewable energy, as well as automatic water faucets and toilets. Green building also promotes attractive, healthy work environments by using more natural light, open office space and non-toxic building materials.
Although the COG action applies only to most new government buildings, excluding schools, and to new commercial properties, the board expects to eventually adopt green building standards for existing buildings, schools and residential properties. Several local jurisdictions, including Montgomery, Fairfax, and Arlington Counties and the District of Columbia already have adopted green building standards.