LEED certification being given a monopoly

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Feb. 3, 2012 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senate President Pro Tempore, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has introduced SB 52, Environmental Quality: Jobs and Economic Improvement, as clean up legislation to his SB 900 passed last year.  SB 900 provided a method for fast tracking specific projects through California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that have an investment of at least 100 million dollars.  SB 900 was pushed through the Legislature in the closing days of session last September.  At that time, Senator Steinberg promised to address fixes in 2012 on a number of contentious issues.

While SB 52 streamlines the judicial review process for CEQA challenges, it still mandates the State to use the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.  LEED, a proprietary standard, is essentially being given a monopoly as a project certifier.  It fails to include other comparable green building rating systems, specifically the Green Building Initiative’s (GBI) Green Globes program, California’s own Green Building Code (CALGreen), or the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) as promulgated  by the International Code Council.  California should provide all green building programs the opportunity to compete in the marketplace.  Solely referencing the LEED rating system prevents other credible systems from contributing to legislative and regulatory goals.

California is the first state in the nation to adopt a mandatory statewide green building code.  It applies to both residential and commercial properties and has been hailed throughout the nation for striking a balance between environmental sustainability and economic feasibility.  Environmentalists, labor groups, and the business community have praised the code. The California Air Resources Board estimates that through adhering to CALGreen’s minimum standards, the state would reduce water consumption by twenty percent, remove an estimated 3 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and divert fifty percent of construction waste each year with no new bureaucracy or added expenses.

All changes to California’s state building codes must go through a very open and public process wherein interested parties are afforded the opportunity to comment and state agencies are required to respond to those comments.  Unlike state regulations, a private-sector entity such as the United States Green Building Council may change its program specifications at any time without public notice and/or comment.  It is, therefore, important that policy promoting green buildings not specify one rating system, but rather make all credible systems eligible to participate in its provisions.  CMTA sees no reason why the state should mandate a private standard for consideration to the exclusion of CALGreen or other similar programs.

From a simple technical perspective, LEED Silver falls just above minimum compliance with California’s minimum mandatory green building standards and well below CALGreen Tier 1.

CMTA and others are asking that SB 52 be amended to allow for the inclusion of all relevant green building standards.

Read more Environmental Impacts articles

Capitol updates archive 989898989