Green Buildings: States Taking Leadership Toward a Cleaner Future

Committee of Jurisdiction: Energy, Transportation, and Environment (ETE)
Related Resolutions: ETE-10-07; ETE-13-44

Photo Credit: Green DC DailyPhoto Credit: Green DC DailyAs energy costs continue to rise and state budgets continue to tighten, state legislators have sought out solutions to improve energy efficiency, especially in building and construction projects. Green initiatives have shown major benefits when enacted, from spurring job creation and cutting long-term energy costs, to reducing carbon emissions and other pollution.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, green buildings expand and complement classical building design elements, such as utility and durability. Green building is defined as the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.

Green buildings tend to provide a great opportunity for public construction projects by offering return on taxpayer investment. Green buildings enjoy lower operating costs, maintain their value longer, and provide an overall better experience for employees and patrons alike.

According to the Green Building Council, buildings account for 70 percent of all electricity consumed; 39 percent of energy use; 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions; 40 percent of raw materials use; 30 percent of waste output; and 12 percent of potable water consumption.

Considering the tremendous footprint that buildings have on the country’s energy and resource use, states have sought to lead by example in efforts to encourage green building.

State Action

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 40 states have laws on the books either requiring public buildings to meets energy efficiency standards or incentivizing local governments and private builders to adopt up-to-date energy standards. Such policies also include programs to build green schools, colleges, and student housing.


NebraskaLB 329 (2011)

Sponsors Senator Tanya Cook*

Prior to LB 329, Nebraska was operating under an energy code that had not been significantly updated in almost a decade. One of the primary shortfalls of the older standards was that it utilized three separate climate zones for Nebraska, which in turn led to additional burdens, confusion in compliance, and difficulty enforcing state building regulations. LB 329 established regulations based on a single climate zone. The bill passed unanimously through the Nebraska Legislature and was signed into law in 2011.

LB 329 updated Nebraska’s energy code to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for efficiency in state buildings, state-constructed buildings, and new residential and commercial buildings.  It also included additional IECC training for builders and inspectors. The IECC is a widely recognized national model, utilized by 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Update Nebraska’s building energy codes.
  • Provide owners and renters with the most up-to-date energy standards.
  • Save consumers up to 30% off of their energy costs.


marylandSB 208 (2008):  High Performance Buildings Act

Sponsors SB 208: Senators Madaleno, King, Brochin, Forehand, Frosh, Garagiola, Lenett, Pinsky, Rosapepe, Currie*, DeGrange, Edwards, Jones*, Kasemeyer, Kramer, McFadden*, Munson, Peters, Robey, and Zirkin

Maryland lawmakers had taken steps as early as the mid-1980s to reduce energy consumption in public buildings. Over the years through a combination of executive orders and legislation, the state established programs to set specific energy reduction goals and perform regular energy analyses. However, in 2008, Maryland enacted the High Performance Buildings Act to more aggressively improve efficiency of energy, resources, and cost from building construction and use.

The High Performance Buildings Act requires that most buildings constructed or renovated solely with state funds be high-performance buildings to meet either the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standard or two Green Globes from the Green Building Initiative’s rating system. The bill also requires new schools that receive state public school construction funds to meet these efficiency standards, and requires the state to pay for half of the additional costs for schools to meet the requirement. In 2010, Maryland lawmakers passed legislation to expand the school construction funding provision to community colleges.

  • Implement green standards for public construction projects.
  • Facilitate green schools and community colleges.

  • By requiring the state to pay for a portion of additional green costs, there is some risk of cost overrun.


oklahoma HB 3394 (2008)

Sponsors Representatives: Brown, Jett, Kiesel, Shumate*, Ryan McMullen
Senators: Jolley, C. Johnson*, Rice, Sparks

In 2008, Oklahoma sought to reduce costs and improve energy and resource efficiency. The bill sought to improve air and water quality, reduce solid waste, and encourage sustainability in construction, building use, and building maintenance.  The bill was enacted in June 2008.

Under HB 3394, all new construction or substantial renovation projects larger than 10,000 square feet were required to meet either LEED or GBI standards. The bill exempted public schools, state archives, and buildings without HVAC systems and granted the Oklahoma Department of Central Services the authority to provide waivers for exceptional cases. The state estimated that a 20,000 square foot building under the new rules would save more than $50,000 over the course of a five-year lease.

  • Provide energy efficiency standards for large buildings and public buildings.
  • Reduce building energy consumption by 30-50 percent; potable water consumption by 40 percent, carbon emissions by 39 percent, and solid waste output by 70 percent.

  • Executive exemptions waiver authority is broad.
  • Specifically exempts schools from the requirement
  • Could increase initial cost of investment for building projects.

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