The District of Columbia is on-track to become the first major city in the United States to require all new large non-residential buildings to be built green. Before leaving office at the end of December, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) signed the Green Building Act of 2006, which will require major private non-residential and District-owned buildings to comply with green building standards by 2012.

Much of the impact of the new legislation will be felt by commercial developers in the District. Starting in 2010, new and substantially improved commercial buildings of 50,000 sq ft or more in size will have to fulfill or exceed LEED New Construction 2.2 or LEED Core and Shell 2.0 standards.

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Post-secondary educational facilities will also have to meet those standards. All other educational facilities will be required to meet LEED for Schools standards by 2012.

The District will hold itself to green standards starting next year. Beginning in 2008, all District-owned non-residential buildings of 10,000 sq ft or larger that are new or substantially renovated must be designed to achieve 75 points on the EPA national energy performance rating system. All District-owned residential projects of 10,000 sq ft or more will have to exceed the Green Communities 2006 standard.

To help ease the transition, incoming D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) will establish incentive programs for early adopters, paid for through the city’s new Green Building Fund. The fund is being formed with money from new building construction permit fees, including an additional $2 for every 1,000 sq ft of new construction. The incentive program will be in place by this summer.

To monitor compliance, Mayor Fenty will establish a Green Building Advisory Council this spring. The 13-person committee will be a mix of city officials and representatives of private and non-profit sectors.

Although the legislation will have a broad impact on development in the District, green construction of commercial space – particularly federal office buildings – is common in the nation’s capital. Under U.S. General Services Administration guidelines, federal projects are already required to meet LEED standards.

LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system. It has become the de facto standard in the U.S. for sustainable building design and construction.