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There are many critical areas of municipal green building policy: incentives, policies on municipal buildings, policies for private buildings, staff support (including technical assistance as well as fast tracking) for green building permit-seekers, code work and education of civic officials to ensure that green buildings are legal and encouraged, among many others. Among best practices include Portland's incentives, Chicago's fast-tracking, Boston's requirement for not just municipal but also private buildings to go green. According to the USGBC, in the US, various LEED initiatives including legislation, executive orders, resolutions, ordinances, policies, and incentives are found in 44 states, including 186 localities (122 cities, 34 counties, and 30 towns), 31 state governments, 12 federal agencies or departments, 15 public school jurisdictions and 39 institutions of higher education.

Examples of green building policies

  • City of Portland Green Building Program – Portland, Oregon. One of the most comprehensive programs in the nation, Portland’s Green Building Program external link .
  • Sustainable Building Policy – San Mateo County, California. The County of San Mateo adopted a Sustainable Building Policy Download PDF external link that requires future County buildings to be built to LEED external link standards.
  • City of Kirkland Green Building Resources – Kirkland, Washington. The City of Kirkland has various green building policies and services external link including: free consultation; priority permitting; sustainable development seminars; and more.
  • City of Santa Monica Building Guidelines – Santa Monica, California. Santa Monica has adopted a set of guidelines external link to facilitate green buildings without forcing excessive costs on developers, owners, or occupants. Two performance-based ordinances improve the environmental and resource performance of buildings by requiring reduced energy consumption and reduced runoff.
  • City of Seattle Green Q Program – Seattle, Washington. To qualify external link , projects must limit dwelling size to no more than 2,400 sq ft, meet existing code requirements, recycle construction waste, and meet one of the following sustainability standards: LEED Silver, Gold, or Platinum certification; Built Green 4 or 5 star; or the Department of Planning and Development’s alternative path. Projects that qualify receive priority intake appointments; 50% faster initial plan review; application and review assistance from staff with green building experience; and green building/energy efficiency recognition.

Examples of green building ordinances & resolutions

  • US Conference of Mayors – The U.S. Conference of Mayors external link passed a resolution that endorses green building for affordable housing, energy financing districts, and the International Green Construction Code, among other sustainability initiatives. The mayoral organization, along with the National Association of Governors and National Association of Counties, have endorsed AIA's goal that all new buildings be greenhouse gas-neutral by 2030.
  • Living Building Challenge Ordinances – This page provides a summary of local ordinances and green building codes designed to adhere to the International Living Buildings Institute's (ILBI) Living Building Challenge® standard (version 4.0) Download PDF external link . Visit the International Living Future Institute external link to learn more about Living Building Challenge Ordinances.
  • Mandatory Green Building Ordinance – San Mateo, California. The City of San Mateo has identified sustainability as a key issue to be addressed during the City’s current and future planning and development process. To meet this objective, the City has adopted a mandatory green building ordinance external link that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010.
  • King County Green Building and Sustainable Development Ordinance – King County, Washington. King County's Green Building and Sustainable Development Ordinance Download PDF 825 K expands green building policy for all county-owned, financed, or alternatively financed capital projects.
  • Promoting LEED Standards in City Buildings and Private Sector – Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham City Council adopted Resolution 2005-21 Download PDF external link , requiring all new municipal building construction and renovation over 5,000 sq ft where the City provides a majority of the funding to earn LEED Silver certification. The City also provides a 0.5 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) bonus for private development that earns LEED Silver certification.
  • Sustainable Building and Infrastructure Policy – Issaquah, Washington. The City of Issaquah passed Resolution #2004-11 external link in December, 2004, adopting a sustainable building and infrastructure policy. Developers intending to use LEED may receive free professional consultation and projects achieving LEED certification are placed at the head of the building permit review line. Learn more at Isaaquah’s Sustainable Building website external link .
  • Sustainable Building Policy – Seattle, Washington. Seattle City Council adopted a resolution external link that applies to all new or renovated City-owned facilities greater than 5000 square feet. Density Bonus - zoning legislation external link that gives a height or density bonus to commercial or residential projects that achieve at least LEED Silver certification and contribute to affordable housing.  The city is encouraging the private construction sector to incorporate LEED design standards into new and existing buildings by providing economic incentives external link .
  • Incentivize Green Building and Sustainable Development Practices – Bothell, Washington. Bothell City Council adopted Ordinance 2028 Download PDF external link to provide incentives to commercial projects who seek LEED certification or certification from another third-party rating system. The ordinance allows qualifying projects to reduce the number of on-site parking stalls as required in code, authorizes building officials to approve alternative materials, design and methods of construction to account for new green building techniques, and provides rebates to the permitting fees: 10% for LEED Certified or equivalent and 50% for LEED Platinum or equivalent. In addition, the Council approved expedited permit review and a green building awards program for qualifying projects.
  • Local Government Green Building Ordinances in California In recent years, numerous local governments in California have implemented green building ordinances. These measures can increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and decrease other harmful environmental impacts. This document identifies the various approaches to green building ordinances Download PDF external link that jurisdictions have taken and the most common features of the measures. Provides a list of cities, Ordinance number, effective date, and link to legislation.


  • Municipal Green Building Policies: Strategies for Transforming Building Practices in the Private Sector – This report from the Environmental Law Institute external link (ELI) reviews more than 30 municipal policies that aim to advance green building in the private sector. The policies achieve this through at least one of the following three ways: by (1) establishing mandatory green building criteria; (2) providing expedited review as an incentive for green building; or (3) offering other direct financial incentives for green building, including grants, fee waivers, tax breaks, and bonus development. The main body of the report provides an overview of these three policy strategies, presenting the key considerations for developing an effective policy and noting examples from individual municipalities.
  • US EPA Green Building Publication Directory – Buildings and development are responsible for a broad range of impacts on human health and the environment. EPA has developed numerous programs over the years to address these impacts. A variety of building-related publications from these programs are highlighted in this directoryDownload PDF external link Topics include: General Green Building; brownfields; clean diesel construction; energy efficiency; EPA’s own green buildings; greenhouse gas emissions reductions; indoor environmental quality; materials recycling/reuse; smart growth; water efficiency; and water quality.
  • USGBC Green Building Facts Sheet – The overall green building market is likely to reach $96-140 billion by 2013. The construction market accounts for 13.4% of the $13.2 trillion U.S. GDP. Green Building Facts provides easy references to green building benefits. See more at the USGBC website external link
  • Case studies on high performance buildings – The Cascadia Region Green Building Council provides a wide array of high performance building case studies external link from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

General resources

Reference and credit: Information provided is from a variety of websites including the United States Green Building Council, Cascadia Region Green Building Council, Sustainable Communities Network, Urban Land Institute, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and Smart Communities Network.

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