Oregon considers LEED mandate

Architects are pushing the Oregon Legislature to ratchet up green building requirements for state facility projects - and some are pushing to include standards other than LEED within the language of the bill. Senate Bill 576, introduced Feb. 2 by the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources at the request of the American Institute of Architects, would require state facility projects to be designed - and in some instances certified - to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold standard. AIA Oregon has typically focused its legislative pushes on practice-related issues.

But over the past 10 years, said Tom Pene, AIA Oregon president and principal at BOORA Architects, the organization has stepped up its leadership on issues such as historic preservation, energy and, especially, sustainable building. "The Pacific Northwest has been really on the forefront of the issue," he said. "Increasingly, there was a perception, over the past several years, that legislation in other states might be passing us by. " To some degree, other state's legislation already has. California since 2004 has required a silver or higher LEED rating for new state buildings. Washington in 2005 adopted a law similar to the one being proposed in Oregon. Arizona, Rhode Island and Connecticut also have passed LEED-based statewide green building standards, and a bill that would require LEED certification for any new or renovated building with state funds covering 25 percent or more of project cost passed the Colorado Senate on March 2. Lack of a statewide standard doesn't mean Oregon public building construction hasn't been sustainable. In November 2004, the Department of Administrative Services' sustainable facilities standards and guidelines went into effect, requiring new buildings to meet LEED silver criteria. "It's not something new," said Bob Simonton, Oregon University System director of capital construction, planning and budgeting. "It's something that we're currently doing. " But asking for gold certification kicks things up a notch. The bill would require public construction or renovation projects larger than 4,000 square feet with state funding of more than $400,000 to be designed and constructed to meet LEED gold standards but wouldn't require actual certification; projects with state funding of more than $4 million would be required to be certified. "I think it's fair to say that what we're proposing is raising the existing standards," said John Blumthal, AIA Oregon president-elect and principal at Yost Grube Hall Architecture. The question of which standards are being raised has been a point of contention for the organization. Representatives of the timber industry and supporters of the Green Globes rating system, a LEED competitor, are asking the AIA to expand acceptable high-performance building options mentioned in the bill or remove mention of specific standards entirely. "Our position is, every time you mention LEED, you need to mention Green Globes," said Paul Cosgrove, lobbyist with American Forest & Paper Association. The bill doesn't close the doors to other rating systems, Pene, the AIA Oregon president, said. Language requires LEED or a "substantially equivalent" certification as determined by the state departments of Energy and Administrative Services. But, Pene said, that standard would have to measure up to LEED. "Essentially, it's a bill that's fair," he said. "It has a high standard, and it does leave the door open for any standard that can demonstrate that it's as high as the standard we're trying to achieve. " But, Ward Hubbell executive director of the Green Building Initiative, which oversees the Green Globes system, sees the mention of one third-party standard but not another as "unfair. " The proposed bill "absolutely stifles competition," he said. "To say (LEED) is the holy grail, just on the face of it, is absolutely ridiculous. " The Green Building Initiative, as a nonprofit, Hubbell said, lobbies and influences lawmakers to the extent it can within budget constraints. But, he said, what the organization does do is let legislators know that Green Globes exists - and mention of the system has made its way into legislation in six states. "I think a lot of it is just due to ignorance," he said of the LEED-only standards. "I think a lot of policymakers, who don't deal with green building every day, assume that LEED is to green building what Kleenex is to tissue. " For the architecture community, Blumthal said, the LEED standard is just that. "It's our belief that the LEED standard is the accepted national standard at this point," he said. "It's a third-party, neutral standard. And the Green Globes is really an industry-backed, as opposed to a third-party, standard. "

Senate Bill 576 specifics

The bill, sponsored by the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources at the request of the AIA, would: * Require state facility projects (capital construction or renovation projects larger than 4,000 square feet that are owned, leased or operated by a public body and in which state participation exceeds $400,000) to be designed and built to LEED gold standard or other equivalent certification as determined by the state Department of Administrative Services and the Department of Energy. * Require major state facility projects (projects in which state government funding exceeds $4 million) to actually be certified as LEED gold. * Exempt major state facility projects from LEED gold certification if the departments of Energy and Administrative Services determine certification is not practicable or if other planning, design, construction or renovation criteria are project-appropriate and consistent with the purposes of the act. * Require documentation and evaluation of operating expenses and performance of buildings planned, designed, constructed or renovated under the act. * Create a high-performance buildings advisory committee. * Require major facility projects to use Oregon-grown or Oregon-produced products and employ Oregon industries and businesses to the "greatest extent practicable. "

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