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Washington State to Mandate Silver LEED Rating for Public Buildings

This month Washington will become the first state to enact legislation mandating that state buildings achieve Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings by the U.S. Green Building Council. Senate Bill 5509, signed by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire on April 8 and taking effect July 24, applies to any new construction or remodeling project of more than 5,000 square feet. Various types of laboratory facilities, hospitals, pumping stations, and research facilities are the only exemptions. The Silver LEED rating is the third-highest rating for high-performance sustainable buildings, after Platinum and Gold.

"One of my hopes is that by showing the way, we will encourage everybody from mall developers to homebuilders to use the same green building techniques that schools and other government buildings will be using," said Gregoire. Several states have issued executive orders mandating green buildings, but Washington is the first do so by legislative act.

Representative Frank Jarrett, a Republican member of the Washington legislature’s Capitol Budget Committee, notes that the legislation will add long-term value to state-owned buildings. It is estimated that state-wide, operating expenses for government buildings in Washington will be lowered by as much as 30 percent.

Still, according to Glen Gilbert, president of the Cascadia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, green building remains a niche market. “We still have probably only three or four percent of buildings that are being built going for some sort of LEED certification,” Gilbert says. “We need to go after that other 96 percent, and that won’t happen unless it makes good business sense.”

On June 17, two months after Washington, Nevada became the second state to pass legislation requiring LEED-rated government buildings, with Governor Kenny Guinn signing Assembly Bill 3.

Brian Libby

 

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