Several cities have been promoting energy-efficient development by requiring publicly funded buildings to meet specific build-green standards. In recent months, two major cities have upped the eco- friendly ante, applying green building standards to all projects, public and private.
In December, the Washington, D.C., city council approved a measure requiring that all commercial developments of 50,000 square feet or more meet standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED criteria for new construction are not scheduled to take effect in Washington until 2012.
This January, Boston became the first major city in the country to incorporate environmental standards into its building codes--effective immediately. Unlike the D.C. standards and those adopted by some other, smaller cities, Boston's codes do not require LEED certification. Rather, the city has developed its own set of standards. They are similar to LEED's but by writing its own rules, Boston circumvents criticism other cities have faced for requiring certification from a third-party, non-governmental entity.
Critics of the build-green movement have bristled at the higher costs of eco-friendly construction. Low-flow toilets, natural lighting systems, recycled carpet and other aspects of green building can add as much as 11 percent to the cost of construction, developers say. However, with increasing energy costs and greater emphasis on combating global warming, energy-saving building codes will likely show up in more places--regardless of the higher initial costs.