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LOS ANGELES-A new green ordinance adopted by the Los Angeles City Council this week requires base-level LEED certification and creates what city officials call “the mostfar-reaching plan of any big city in America to promote green building practices in theprivate sector.” The new measure, adopted unanimously by the city council, applies to all projects at or above 50,000 sf or 50 units and promises to provide expeditedprocessing through the planning and public works departments if a builder commits to pursuing LEED Silver accreditation.

The new ordinance, which is less stringent than a similar measure that is under consideration in San Francisco, applies to existing buildings under certain conditions in redevelopment projects, and it outlines a host of other requirements for builders. Among these is the requirement that the project team must include a LEED-accredited professional. The new standards will take effect on Nov. 1 this year for commercial projects and for high-rise residential development, and on May 1, 2009 for low-rise residential projects.

With L.A.’s adoption of the ordinance, the number of US municipalities that have enacted green building rules is probably at least 120, according to Peter Belisle, Los Angeles-based president of project and development services for Jones Lang LaSalle, who tells GlobeSt.com that the number is growing steadily. Belisle observes that the adoption of the green building ordinances is unusual if not unique in that it has the support both of those who are enacting it and those who must abide by the rules.

“Many of the other types of measures that have come along through the years, such as the ADA (Americans With Disabilities) act and certain other types of regulations, were almost purely regulatory and usually were surrounded by some controversy,” Belisle explains. “This time around, a lot of the building owners and others in the (commercial real estate ) industry are out front on this rather than having it pushed on them by the regulators.”

Belisle points out that building owners were actually ahead of the regulators on the green building issue, jumping into it four or five years ago. In the past year or so, he adds, “The biggest change is that investors are pushing as hard for it as some of the occupiers, if not more,” the JLL exec says.

Rather than a burden, Belisle says, building owners and investors see the push for green building practices as a means of attracting and retaining tenants, many of whom are expressing a decided preference for green buildings. A growing number of investors also see green building practices as “necessary to remain competitive,” he says, so they view green buildings and LEED certification as marketing advantages.

Other factors working in favor of green building practices are their relatively minimal cost versus the payoffs. “The investor side is becoming aware of that the premiums around LEED requirements are minimal,” Belisle explains. He points out that Jones Lang LaSalle is doing several large projects around the country with investor groups that are repositioning buildings, and as part of their repositionings, they are looking for LEED certifications on the buildings.

Some cities are proceeding more cautiously into the green building arena, in part because there are increased costs to the city to implement the programs. But Belisle expects that the volume and momentum will only increase as green practices become the norm rather than the exception.

Los Angeles will incur some expenses, for example, in training city case managers as LEED-accredited professionals and will create one-stop checklists of allavailable city incentives to guide developers through the green building process.A new cross-departmental sustainability team will also be created under the program,creating a place for developers and city staff to address issues arising on both a project basis and a policy level. L.A. officials say that the new green building regulations are part of a plan that will reduce LA’s carbon emissions by more than 80,000 tons by 2012, or the equivalent of taking 15,000 cars off the road.

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