A piece of legislation before the District of Columbia Councilcould position the nation's capital as a leader in the greenbuilding movement. If the District of Columbia Green Building Actof 2006 passes, Washington DC will become the first majormetropolis to force developers to meet LEED standards. Smallercities, such as Pasadena and Santa Monica, CA, have already enactedsimilar laws.

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The proposed legislation would require developers to obtaingreen certification from the local government for nearly all newconstruction. The bill adopts the US Green Building Council's LEEDGreen Building Rating System, which, at minimum, requirescertification.

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The guidelines address such concerns as reducing water andenergy usage.

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The mandate would take effect in 2008 on all new andrehabilitated District-owned developments; in 2009 on any buildingreceiving more than 20% public financing; and on privately ownedbuildings over 50,000 sf built between 2010 and 2012. Allstructures that fall under those categories would have to institutebuilding monitoring systems and maintenance accountability methodsupon receipt of a certificate of occupancy.

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The phased-in approach has garnered support from severalindustry leaders. "Bill 16-515 has a long enough lead time thatwe'll be able to prepare," says Shaun Pharr, senior vice presidentof government affairs for the Apartment and Office Association ofMetropolitan Washington, a branch of BOMA International.

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While the lengthy lead-time may quell some developers' concerns,there are additional costs associated with green buildings. By theDC Council's estimates, the premium to construct a LEED-certifiedbuilding range from 2% to 4% of a project's cost. The certificationprocess alone could cost up to $30,000 per project, according tothe DC Council's Fiscal Impact Statement. Nevertheless, the studysuggests that the benefits resulting from lower energy use over thelife of a building—subsequently lowering operating costs—outweighthe expense.

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Pharr is certain that the legislation will affect constructioncosts, but doubts it will have enough of an impact to dampen DC'sdevelopment pipeline. "Given the overall strength of this market,the legislation won't prove to be prohibitive to development."

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All 13 council members voted in favor of the Green Buildings Actduring a preliminary reading last month and are expected to givefinal approvals by the end of this year.

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