Dallas, Texas stands out as one of the few large cities that's enforcing a green building code, and it's being implemented in some pretty strong ways.
The city's goal is to carbon neutral by 2030 and to be the "greenest city in the US."
The code is an enormous step forward for those of us who want to see green building features required rather than voluntary, but many builders may find it very demanding and even infringing on their "freedom."
The city began implementing its Green Construction Ordinance in 2009, and entered its second and final phase October 1. Over the past five years, the ordinance has been gradually extended to more building types and sizes, while making it more stringent for building designers and developers.
Phase I focused on energy efficiency, water conservation and the heat island effect. For example, in 2011, it began requiring all buildings to use drip irrigation for landscaped beds to meet the goal of cutting water use 20%. They also rolled in requirements to reduce the heat island effect, requiring either cool roofs or green roofs that cover at least half of a roof's area.
Phase 2 began October 1 and implements a comprehensive building standard.
All residential and commercial projects must now meet minimum certification requirements. There's lots of flexibility in which certification system they shoot for, although they all have similar requirements: Green Built Texas, LEED, or the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).
Because drought is such an overarching problem, their minimum requirements go into great detail on water conservation, down to the number of gallons a dishwasher can use in residential development.
Before getting a permit to build residential or commercial buildings, third party developers have to attend a six-hour training course and pass an exam! They also have to document their experience related to green building projects. And all project designs must be reviewed by a third party for compliance with LEED or the International Green Construction Code (IgCC).
Dallas has about 144 LEED certified buildings and ranks #8 (214 buildings) for Energy Star-certified buildings.
About the Historic US National Green Building Code
Dallas is further along, but many cities and states are in the process of adopting the first US national green building code, approved by International Green Construction Code (IgCC) in 2011.
As opposed to LEED, which is voluntary, the new code is historic because it creates a mandatory "floor" - enforceable minimum standards on every aspect of building design and construction - energy and water efficiency, site impacts, building waste, and materials.
This is the largest single-step efficiency increase in the history of the national energy code. It requires homes and buildings to achieve energy savings 30% higher than the 2006 code.
The code applies to all new and renovated commercial buildings and residential buildings over three stories high.
The federal government's Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires states to review and consider adopting the most current building codes, but doesn't mandate them.
San Francisco adopted its own green building code back in 2008, with final implementation in 2012, and Illinois is the first Midwestern state to begin implementation.
While California issued minimal standards also in 2008, its visionary net-zero code starts phasing in next year.
The International Code Council approved an equally important update to the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, which is also voluntarily adopted by cities and states.
RE-188, adds a new way for home builders to meet the code, widely supported by industry and environmental advocates: rather than installing a list of prescribed efficiency features, they can meet the criteria of the Home Energy Rating System (HERS), used as the basis for Energy Star certification.
This will significantly increase the energy efficiency of homes, while giving builders a lot more flexibility in how they do it.
For commercial buildings, the updated ASHRAE Standard is 50% more demanding than the 2004 version.
Read the report, "The Value and Impact of Building Codes," by Environmental and Energy Study Institute: