Baltimore City Enacts Among the Strictest Mandatory Green Building Laws in the Nation
Baltimore City has enacted a mandatory Green Buildings Law requiring that nearly all newly constructed buildings achieve specified high standards for energy efficiency and environmental design.
Last Friday the United Nations panel on climate change declared “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” Last Thursday, a federal appeals court in California invalidated the federal government’s fuel economy standards for light trucks and sport utility vehicles because they failed to take into account the economic risks of climate change. On Wednesday, the U.S. EPA confirmed its calculation that “buildings in the U.S. contribute 38.1% of the nation’s total carbon dioxide” emissions (cars and light trucks contribute only 20.5%). On Tuesday the U. S. Green Building Council announced that 2.2 billion square feet of green construction were registered with it in the last 7 months (it took 7 years to register the first 1 billion square feet). And last Monday, Marriott heralded the ground breaking of Baltimore’s first certified green hotel.
All of that was just last week.
Possibly a good way to begin this week is with a review of Baltimore’s new mandatory Green Buildings Law. On August 13, 2007 the Baltimore City Council unanimously approved and the Mayor signed into law the next day what is among the strictest Green Building laws in the nation.
The new law impacts any “newly constructed or extensively modified non-residential or multi-family residential building that has or will have at least 10,000 square feet of gross floor area.”
Extensively modified refers to a structural modification that alters more than 50% of a buildings gross floor area, but does not include a modification that is limited to electrical, plumbing, HVAC, fire protection and similar mechanical systems. Multi-family residential building means any building that contains 5 or more dwelling units and is taller than 3 stories; or any mixed use building that contains a residential component and is taller than 3 stories.
The enactment will be codified in the Building, Fire and related Codes and the City will issue regulations to administer the law. Those regulations must specify the use of the LEED rating system and any future equivalent energy and environmental design standard.
While there is no single accepted standard, the U.S. Green Building Council established the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building rating system as a voluntary non-governmental national standard for measuring Green Building. LEED recognizes water and energy savings, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and environmental protection (for example, using less energy and water, Brownfields redevelopment, using locally harvested materials, providing for daylight, etc.). Points are given for green practices and based upon a building’s total number of points, it will receive one of the four LEED levels of certification: 26 to 32 points for Certified, 33 to 38 points for Silver, 39 to 51 points for Gold or 52 to 69 points for Platinum.
A Baltimore City owned building included in the capital budget for fiscal year 2009 or for which a building permit application is filed during fiscal year 2009, must achieve a LEED Certified level rating. For a City building included in the capital budget for fiscal year 2010 or for which a building permit application is filed on or after July 1, 2009, the building must achieve a LEED Silver level rating.
Every “City subsidized” building for which a building permit application is filed on or after January 1, 2009 and on or before June 30, 2009, must achieve a LEED Certified level rating. For a City subsidized which a building permit application is filed on or after July 1, 2009, the building must achieve a LEED Silver level rating.
City subsidized building means any building for which Baltimore City provides funds or resources, including grants or loans of 15% of more of the project costs, a payment in lieu of taxes, tax increment financing, or the like.
Every other covered building for which a building permit application is filed on or after July 1, 2009 must achieve a LEED Silver level rating. With the trigger being the application for building permits, the delay in implementation will allow sufficient lead time for buildings in the development pipeline.
That nearly all newly constructed buildings must achieve a LEED Silver level rating is the component of the law that makes this among the strictest in the nation (ignoring that the LEED rating system was designed to be voluntary and does not easily translate into government regulation). Earlier this year, Montgomery County became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to enact mandatory Green Building standards effective September 1, 2008, but that law only requires the easier to achieve LEED Certified level. And Howard County, Maryland enacted a mandatory Green Building law that will become effective on July 1, 2008, but that enactment also only mandates a LEED Certified level.
Exceptions to the Baltimore City law exist for a later addition to any building when all necessary building permit applications for the building were filed on or before June 30, 2009, unless the addition would increase the building’s land coverage by 100% or more or increase the building’s gross floor area by at least 10,000 square feet.
And the Building Official may approve waivers to the extent that compliance would be impractical and the public interest would be served by the waiver.
In the world today where Green is the new Black and it is hip to be Green, a question is often posed, ‘who is the greenest of them all?’ The answer may be Baltimore City with a mandated LEED Silver rating for newly constructed buildings.
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