Seattle, Los Angeles Announce Green Building Plans

Seattle, Los Angeles Announce Green Building Plans

More than 100 towns and cities have adopted green building codes for public projects, but two of the country's biggest -- and most environmentally active -- cities are seeking to join a much smaller group mandating green for all buildings.

In the last week, Los Angeles and Seattle have both announced green building plans that address very different levels of construction, but each is aimed at making the cities' buildings more energy-efficient and less polluting.

Two committees in Los Angeles' City Council voted late last week to approve a new ordinance that would require all new private building projects over 50,000 square feet to meet LEED standards, and would give projects intending to achieve LEED silver-level certification an expedited permitting process.

The ordinance would go into effect six months after it has been approved by the full City Council, something that City Council President Eric Garcetti expects to happen within a month. "When you do something this big, it can be quite scary," Garcetti told the L.A. Times. "But this has been an inclusive process. It will lead to a healthier city and a healthier planet."

Seattle's green building plan, announced on Monday by mayor Greg Nickels, covers a much wider range of buildings, and is intended not only to green the city's buildings, but to create "green-collar" jobs in the process.

Nickels' proposed "Green Building Capital" program sets a goal of 20 percent improvement in the energy efficiency of homes and businesses, both new and existing, as a way of reducing the city's overall emissions by 80 percent before 2050.

The mayor said city residents would benefit from the program in three ways: not only would greenhouse gas emissions drop from increased energy efficiency, but residents would see their heating and energy bills drop as a result of greater efficiency and the rise in demand for retrofits and green building technologies and services would spur job creation in and around the city.

"Achieving this triple bottom line will not be an easy task," Nickels said in a speech announcing the plan. "To meet our climate goals, we must find innovative ways to unlock the doors to energy conservation in the homes and businesses that exist today."

These announcements are just the latest in a slew of similar programs. Three months ago, the U.K. Green Building Council released a report saying that all commercial buildings can be carbon neutral, and last month alone, Monroe, N.Y., Harrisburg, Ks. and the state of Connecticut all passed laws mandating green building codes.