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Board Approves Increase in Standards for Green Buildings

by Katie Pyzyk June 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,936 24 Comments

The County Board unanimously approved a beefed up voluntary Green Building Density Incentive Policy at its meeting on Saturday, June 16.

The move is designed to encourage higher levels of energy efficiency in Arlington buildings that go above and beyond the LEED minimum requirements. It also addresses the building energy efficiency and greenhouse reduction goals listed in the Community Energy Plan, which was launched in 2010. The Green Building Bonus Density Initiative was last updated in 2009.

Under the new guidelines, commercial office projects interested in participating in the incentive program must be at least 20 percent more energy efficient than the baseline, and achieve LEED Silver certification or higher. Multi-family residential buildings interesting in participating must be 18 percent more energy efficient than the baseline, and achieve at least LEED Silver certification. Previously, the county did not have its own standards, but required buildings to comply with the LEED standard of being 10 percent more energy efficient than the baseline.

In exchange for meeting the goals, developers may request additional building density or height. The newly approved plan eliminates bonus density for buildings simply meeting LEED Certified status, but increases the bonus density for Silver status.

Additional bonus density will be granted to projects that commit to both LEED certification, plus either ENERGY STAR building certification or LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) certification. ENERGY STAR and LEED-EB certifications are both based on current energy usage.

“Our Green Building Program is a voluntary program that is unique to Arlington,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “This update makes our program even better — providing incentives that will help keep Arlington a regional and national leader in green building and energy efficiency while helping owners and tenants save money through reduced energy costs.”

Each project requesting bonus credits will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, due to differences in types and sizes of buildings. For example, projects receive different credits for a variety of energy efficiency factors like roof type, interior and exterior lighting, HVAC systems and insulation type.

The county says it recognizes that it may not be initially as cost effective for developers to incorporate energy efficient components into their projects. The incentive program was devised to encourage developers to continue investing in energy efficient designs and construction, despite the initial cost.

  • don

    So what? All it means is that the builder has to amass a few more LEED points that have nothing to do with energy efficiency. You can amass enough points for a tent to be LEED Silver certified.

    • Gnu

      Also, LEED points are scored long after the bonus density is granted. What happens if a project fails to meet the LEED score that the county demanded but they still built the extra density?

    • Don-juan-de-stupido

      According to the post “Under the new guidelines, commercial office projects interested in participating in the incentive program must be at least 20 percent more energy efficient than the baseline,”.

      It appears the points must be from energy.

  • Confucius

    Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.

  • JnA

    Of 110 possible LEED 2009 points for Core and Shell Development only 35 possible points are derived from on-site energy efficiency.
    Developer gets 2 points for basement bicycle storage and 2 points for renewable energy on-site. Duh.

    • Trolly Troll

      You get 50 points for building next to a street car line.

      • Trolley NO

        Trolley powered by electricity generated by mountaintop coal? Minus 50 points.

        • John K.

          It will be powered by energy generated by vibrant economic development and walkability. Surely the Sierra Club wasn’t promoting itself at the Columbia Pike Farmers’ Market ( (with the trolley as a hook) on Sunday on the back of to-be-destroyed mountains…

          • cindy

            Did you actually read the flyers the $ierra Club passed out? Mountaintop coal would provide the electricity for a Pike Trolley for decades. I and other former $ierra Club members told them to stop their hypocrisy at the Pike farmers mkt.

            BTW, have you noticed the Pike is looking like a dump. Where’s CPRO? What have they ever ‘revitalized’?

          • drax

            So, cindy, your home isn’t powered by mountaintop coal? The computer you’re typing this on isn’t?

            Hypocrisy?

          • John K

            She could be substantially off-grid, aside from an internet connection…. Who’s making assumptions?

          • Josh S

            The odds are slim. Safe assumption.

          • Josh S

            The “BTW, have you noticed the Pike is looking like a dump” comment is about 7-8 years out of date. Has it been that long since you were down that way?

            Sienna and Penrose Square look way better than what they replaced.

            The street scene is far more VIBRANT than it used to be. Still work to be done, to be sure.

            Probably you should talk to CPRO to learn what they do.

        • Josh S

          So how much time do you spend fighting coal mining? Or even the specific mountaintop removal style of coal mining?

          What’s that? None, you say? You just like to jump on that convenient little “concern” b/c you can’t come up with any other good reasons to be opposed to the streetcar?

          Meanwhile, you’ll be sure to crank your AC up to 70 these next few days, won’t you?

  • barry

    If you peruse the “Green Density Building Incentive Program” document the County handed out a few weeks ago it appears you can still get a tent LEED Gold certified under LEED 2009.

  • Louise

    Things like this make me so proud to live in Arlington!

  • speonjosh

    Only 9 comments?

    I’m sensing poster fatigue here at ARLNow.

  • Why LEED only?

    Why is the County so hung up on LEED? There are other rating and scoring systems like Green Globes, Building Star, Breem, and ASHRAE 189.1 among others. Competition is a good thing. Under the Arlington model, not so much.

  • John Fontain

    Looks like the County finally woke up to the fact that LEED is largely a meaningless, easily achievable designation (thus requiring the higher (and somewhat difficult) to achieve levels be met before awarding freebies to developers.

    I read this article with amusement, as it basically supports what I’ve been saying about LEED for the past few months (which so many of this site’s LEED cheerleaders have been in denial about).

    • KalashniKEV

      LEED it the top-scam-running. Why don’t I invent a PMP-like certification that is industry specific? Then I could sell classes, sell tests, and sell memberships???

      …because I’d never beat PMP. It’s the Top Scam.

    • Josh S

      Not really. The county has decided it’s time to increase requirements so as to achieve greater environmental benefits. Implies no lack of faith in the yardstick they have chosen.

      And I’m not sure how it would support anything you’ve been saying unless you’ve been arguing that the county should tighten energy efficiency standards for buildings in Arlington. I seem to remember you’ve simply been sniping at LEED. Not the same thing.

  • Resident and teacher

    Yet school buildings aren’t being built to a very high LEED level. Not worth our except to extort things or of developers?

    • JandA

      Visit James K. Polk School and Minnie Howard School in Alexandria to see how much taxpayers can save from onsite renewable energy.

    • Josh S

      Can you elaborate? What LEED level have schools been built to? It’s not clear from your post – are you suggesting that any school buildings built from now on should be held to a particular LEED level? What level would you suggest?

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