At this month’s Climate Energy and Environmental Policy Committee (CEEPC) meeting real estate developers from Rockville to Manassas conveyed the future of place making: it is not oriented on driving to an office park. According to a guest panel LEED certified space proximity to Metro walkable business districts & nearby housing options are the future of development.
Actions By Governments
The region’s local governments have in tandem with federal agencies created an economy for green rented space and have worked with developers to plan green buildings in sustainable transit oriented locations.
The District of Columbia requires all new public buildings to be at least LEED Silver Certified and all new non-residential buildings over 50000 square feet to be LEED certified. The General Services Administration has sought a dual-pronged approach to sustainable work environments requiring federal government buildings to meet Energy Star ratings of 75 or higher for leasing while also being the largest employer in the region to aggressively pursue employee telework (link).
Virginia and Maryland are also helping lead the green building trend. The city of Alexandria VA requires that all new residential buildings to be LEED certified and all new commercial and municipal buildings attain LEED Silver Certification. In Maryland Gaithersburg requires LEED Silver certification for all new municipal buildings as well as new residential and commercial buildings over 4 stories and 100000 square feet.
Adoption By the Market
Green building used to be novel but as LEED certification shifted from mandate to brand name approaches to building green have become a boon for building owners. Absorbing initial costs of energy efficient materials and systems has been made easier through zoning and tax incentives such as Montgomery County’s property tax credit program which can reduce property taxes up to 75% for LEED Platinum buildings. Once in place solar panels insulated windows and efficient HVAC systems lower net costs and pay for themselves. The environmental and economic benefits of sustainable business practices now attract clients and public support alike.
Key to a green building’s success is the sustainable infrastructure that delivers workers clients and residents to it. Clients and tenants are demanding more than just a Metro stop but wide sidewalks a network of shops and restaurants near work and bicycle access. Indeed incorporating new housing nearby to cut commute times is key to green mixed-use developments and our Region Forward Vision alike. For example in White Flint Maryland a new more accessible street grid will leverage $600 million in LEED certified building space while reducing stormwater runoff by 40 percent and providing 1600 new housing units…all within a half mile of the White Flint Metro Station.
Where transit is not as accessible green building investment is changing the way neighborhoods orient themselves. A new Harris Teeter grocery store near Old Town Alexandria is providing a local healthy option that will decrease driving times (and energy use) to access groceries and will be LEED Silver certified.
The CEEPC discussion is another reminder of how our Region Forward goals closely connect and how green buildings are helping make our communities – both new and old – more sustainable.