All Construction in Baltimore City Must be Green
This is a version of my guest blog posting on Shari Shapiro's widely viewed blog on legal issues related to green building, available at www.greenbuildinglawblog.com.
Building green is the law in Baltimore City. And while the mandatory requirement for all to build green has been in effect since July 1, 2009, the City just yesterday promulgated the regulations that are the Baltimore City Green Building Standards (albeit more than a year late).
Make no mistake, Baltimore City is not green washing. To the contrary, it was an early adopter when it enacted a green building law in 2007 that, today, remains among the most sweeping of that in any major American city.
Baltimore City Building Code, Chapter 37 mandates that all newly constructed, extensively modified non-residential, and specific multi-family residential buildings, that have or will have at least 10,000 square feet of gross floor area, "for which a building permit application is filed on or after July 1, 2009 must achieve a silver-level rating in the appropriate LEED rating system, as certified by the Green Building Council". (Mandating that privately owned buildings be constructed to a LEED standard is no less controversial than religion or politics.)
City Housing Department officials have issued guidance that "extensively modified" is a modification that alters more than 50% of the building's gross floor area (such that many major renovations will have to be LEED silver certified is a big deal). Also subject to the mandate are multi-family residential buildings that contain 5 or more dwelling units and are taller than 3 stories; or mixed use buildings that contain a residential component and are taller than 3 stories.
The City Code further requires that "the Building Official must issue regulations to administer .. [this law and that] those regulations must specify: 1. The LEED rating system, and any equivalent energy and environmental design standard, that applies to each type of covered building."
Significantly, the City has just promulgated the regulations (that were, arguably, to have been effective July 1, 2009).
As the key component of those regulations, the City has developed its own "equivalent" green building standard, based largely upon the LEED 2009 rating standards, layered with fast, flexible new approaches to sustainability taking advantage of the powerful opportunities and challenges of building in an older urban area. A City checklist of 150 credits (versus 110 credits on a LEED checklist) has been released for new construction.
The game changing regulations create the "Baltimore City Green Building Standards" enabling an applicant to satisfy the law with either at a minimum LEED silver certification or obtain a "2 Star" (on a 5 star scale) City approval under those City Green Building Standards.
Building permit applications are, today, being accepted utilizing the Baltimore City Green Building Standards even in advance of public comment and finalizing the regulations.
The Building Official has announced that for the period running until "6 months from the date of release of the Baltimore City Green Building Standards, projects applying for a permit and electing the LEED option, will be required" only to demonstrate that the project is LEED "certifiable" as opposed to pursuing LEED certification from GBCI.
To comply with the requirement in the law that the applicant for a building must submit "design plans for the building that are likely to achieve the applicable standard," even those projects electing to pursue LEED silver certification must make a submittal at the time of permitting that includes: LEED registration documentation, the design credit review submittal package, a LEED scorecard, and a detailed LEED checklist.
An Occupancy Permit for projects pursuing LEED silver certification, will not be held for actual certification by GBCI. But rather, the LEED checklist submitted at building permit, will need to be signed with an accompanying affidavit verifying that all indicated credits have been satisfied. The law authorizes an "enforcement mechanism" for failure to comply.
The City Green Building Standards path submittals are significantly less burdensome than the LEED application process, moreover, early experience (with the 3 projects currently pursuing the City standards path in advance of the regulations actually being promulgated) makes clear that compliance will be significantly faster, cheaper, and possibly even 'better for the planet' when pursuing the City path.
Full of partial waivers may be granted by the Building Official and that process is specified in the regulations.
The Green building law in Baltimore City is a game changer. There are opportunities to prosper and thrive in the greening of Baltimore.
If we can assist you in complying with the Baltimore City green building laws or with other innovation in green building and sustainable business, generally, please contact Stuart Kaplow.
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