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County Wins Top Environmental Award from U.S. Green Building Council

Arlington County is the first community in the country to win a top award for its environmentally-friendly policies from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The county was named a Platinum level community by USGBC under its new LEED for Communities program.

USGBC said the certification recognizes the county’s creation of a “sustainable and resilient urban environment that has long-proven success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing stormwater, ensuring economic prosperity and focusing on education, affordable housing, health and safety for residents and businesses.”

LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is a rating system by USGBC that evaluates how environmentally-friendly buildings are.

“It is truly an honor, and a validation of Arlington’s commitment to sustainability, to be the first to earn LEED for Communities Platinum certification,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “This has been a community effort, achieved by having a vision of combating climate change and promoting energy efficiency on a local level, and putting in place innovative policies and practices to achieve it. Now, more than ever, the responsibility for progress on climate change rests with local and state governments and with the private sector.”

The award honors communities that have set goals for environmental sustainability and then met them. It tracks energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience (education, prosperity, equitability and health and safety) before awarding certification.

“Arlington County understands the value of LEED and its ability to help set goals and deploy strategies that can improve the quality of life for residents across the community,” Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC, said in a statement. “Arlington’s LEED for Communities Platinum certification demonstrates a commitment to improving performance and creating a more resilient and sustainable future.”

More details from a press release after the jump:

More than a half-century of commitment to sustainability

Arlington’s sustainability story began with thoughtful Metrorail planning in the 1960s, followed by the Smart Growth strategies outlined in the General Land Use Plan. The County launched its Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) effort in 2007. AIRE set a target to reduce Arlington County government’s carbon emissions by 10 percent by 2012, compared to 2000 levels, and achieved it by improving energy efficiency in the County government’s buildings, vehicles and infrastructure and other efforts.

The County’s Community Energy Plan (CEP), adopted in 2013, established a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 percent by 2050. The CEP is an element of Arlington’s Comprehensive Plan, which sets forth the broad goals and policies of a sustainable community over the next 30 to 40 years. Arlington’s green building policies support the plan’s goals by encouraging the construction of buildings that are energy and water efficient while providing healthy indoor environments. Most recently, the County became the first locality in Virginia to approve an ordinance allowing a Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program – a public-private partnership to provide affordable, long-term financing for projects to improve the energy or water efficiency of commercial buildings in the County.

Open-space planning, solid-waste management, stormwater management, affordable-housing planning and public schools were evaluated by the USGBC for the LEED for Communities Platinum certification.

The Arlington County Board celebrated the Platinum certification at its December 19 meeting, which also marked the retirement of sustainability advocate and long-time County Board Member Jay Fisette.

“Whether from his bicycle or from the dais of the County Board room, Mr. Fisette has championed sustainability in Arlington for the past 20 years. This LEED certification is a tribute to Jay and his now-lasting vision for Arlington’s future,” said Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol.

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