by Christopher Rizzo

On September 7, 2010, National Public Radio ran a story on the surge in “green” building construction in the United States.  According to the story, McGraw-Hill Construction released a report that one third of new construction in the United States is “green.”  While the story doesn’t specify whether this construction has genuinely achieved LEED certification or another formal certification, the statistic is remarkable.

The surge is no doubt partly due to popular demand, especially among high-end consumers of homes and class-A office space.  But it also reflects the increasing number of states and localities that mandate new public construction meet LEED standards.  Increasingly, cities are  even requiring private construction to meet LEED or other certification standards.

But the heavy public reliance on LEED, a standard promulgated by the not-for-profit U.S. Green Building Council, has made some Americans uneasy.  USGBC charges a lot of money for its manuals and certifications.  While there are other voluntary green building certification programs out there, LEED has absolutely dominated the field.   Moreover, the delegation of state and local legislative authority to private certification organizations raises constitutional issues.

These kinds of concerns have now led California to adopt a state green building code that is binding on all municipalities, just as state building and energy codes are binding on localities in most states.  And this is where I think the green building movement is heading–incorporation into public codes.  I think we’re going to see more states try to phase out reliance on private codes and certification programs and simply incorporate the best aspects of green building design into their building and energy codes.