The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and its membership have embraced a green building policy agenda containing five resolutions that are expected to benefit the built environment. The move drew the praise of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), whose mission is to transform the design, construction, and operations of buildings and communities.
Resolutions that passed in early June include the following: financing mechanisms to pay for energy retrofits of existing buildings; greening of school districts; sustainable development in cities; green affordable housing and financing; and calling on U.S. Cities to adopt green building codes and the International Green Construction Code (IGCC).
The resolutions have two broad functions, Jason Hartke, USGBC's vice president of national policy, told Green Building Insider. "First, they help indicate policy that the mayors can support and advance in their cities. In addition, the resolutions help establish a policy agenda for USCM to advocate on Capitol Hill as they try to influence national legislation.
"These resolutions set the agenda for the mayors. The mayors gather together every summer to share best practices and explore new policy solutions to the challenges they face. As the first responders on the frontlines in the battle to combat climate change, they seek out effective solutions that strengthen their local economies. These resolutions are yet another example that mayors understand that green building sits at the nexus of saving people money, saving energy, and creating jobs.
"Due in large part to the leadership of mayors all over America, more than 200 localities have passed policies that deliver the benefits of green building. When mayors embark on innovative efforts to green our city halls, our schools, our hospitals, our offices, and our homes, USGBC has been there to help provide the tools, strategies, and resources they need to take leadership positions, foster innovation, and inspire others. They've been invaluable partners in leading efforts to promote sustainability and implement green building measures for climate protection in cities across the country.
"Mayors have long been leading the effort to address climate change and the need to promote sustainability in our nation's cities," according to USGBC. These resolutions ... represent a powerful endorsement of support for implementing a green building agenda that will advance our greatest opportunities to revitalize the economy through green jobs and save money through operational cost savings while turning the tide of climate change, preserving water and natural resources, and promoting health for all people."
The resolutions mark the continuation of a national trend of local government leadership on sustainability planning and innovation, according to USCM. "USGBC's recent launch of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system -- referenced in the resolutions alongside other LEED rating systems for building design, construction, and operations -- promises to be an important tool in further supporting the work of these leading mayors.
The resolution supporting the greening of school districts cited that greening existing schools using tools such as LEED can optimize building performance, resolve operational inefficiencies, and dramatically reduce utility costs. Greening existing schools can happen through low- or no-cost operations and maintenance improvements such as implementing water efficiency measures, green cleaning programs, sustainable purchasing practices, recycling and waste reduction initiatives, and energy management plans that can save a school district millions of dollars each year in direct operating expenses.
Buildings in the U.S. are responsible for 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 40 percent of energy consumption, 13 percent water consumption, and 15 percent of gross domestic product per year, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity, according to USGBC. Greater building efficiency can meet 85 percent of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building can generate an estimated 2.5 million American jobs.
"Critical to bringing green building to scale is smart public policy that enables investment and market growth," said Roger Platt, senior vice president of global policy and law for USGBC. "USCM's set of resolutions calls on mayors nationwide to do just that, placing a special emphasis on ensuring that the benefits of green buildings are enjoyed by the sectors that need it most -- like affordable housing and schools.
AIA Also Applauds Mayors' Move
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) applauded the U.S. Conference of Mayors' endorsement of IGCC.
The mayors' endorsement represents "a major expression of support from an organization outside of the building and construction industry," AIA stated. "Such resolutions document support for a policy and represent ways for mayors to learn about and support policies nationally that they are free to adopt in their communities."
Added AIA President George Miller: "The IGCC needs the backing of leadership within local jurisdictions if it is to have any impact on the carbon footprint of the nation's building sector, which accounts for almost 40 percent of America's energy consumption and 72 percent of its electricity use. This resolution by America's mayors is a huge step in that direction."
The Mayors Conference resolution calls on local governments "wishing to take a more holistic approach to incorporating energy efficiency, sustainable community planning, and healthy and safe building practices into the codes to adopt the IGCC and consider its Standard 189.1 compliance path as base code in their jurisdiction."
The IGCC is a document that can be readily used by design professionals, builders, and others in the industry. It was created with the intent to be administered by code officials and adopted by governmental units at any level as a tool to establish a green "floor" above which voluntary rating systems can continue to drive the cutting edge of sustainable and safe design.
IGCC was developed by the International Code Council in association with cooperating sponsors ASTM International and AIA. Other organizations have joined the effort, including USGBC, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the Illuminating Engineering Society.
Version 1.0 of the International Green Construction Code was publicly released in Washington, D.C. on March 15th. Comments received and testimony presented at the August 14-22 hearings in Chicago will be the basis for Public Version 2.0 of the IGCC, scheduled for release in November.