Jeremy Sigmon

For green building policy geeks like us, King County, Washington, is as cool as it gets.  And, my dear geeky friends, they’re at it again.

This week, County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposal to upgrade the existing green building ordinance (and commit an even wider range of county buildings to the highest levels of green building and climate leadership) was unanimously approved by County Council.  Specifically, the new commitment to LEED Platinum for public facilities makes King County the second locality in the nation to have taken such a step, at least as far as we know.

When I told USGBC’s president, CEO and founding chair, Rick Fedrizzi about King County’s next big step for green building, he said, “Exceptional leadership is derived from exceptional people and the worlds they choose to create.  County Executive Constantine, his staff, and our colleagues at the Cascadia Green Building Council have been setting a high bar for sustainability leadership in the Pacific Northwest for years, and this latest action is in keeping with their unwavering commitment to a future that benefits every citizen in the county.”

Of course, you’re probably thinking that King County had already earned its place amongst the nation’s leading localities in green building action.  That’s true – and I’m not only talking about the County’s commitments since 2008 to LEED Gold for public construction and the county-wide focus on building green that dates back to at least 2001, and surely earlier. Just take a look at their Green Tools program, their Eco-Cool Remodel Tool, their EcoCribz video series, their enrollment in STAR Communities, or their extensive (and fun) web site on “What is a Sustainable City?”  King County is a leader among leaders.

In a blog I posted about a year ago, I reported that “small communities experience big benefits when governments commit to leadership with LEED.”  It’s important and compelling data from this green building policy story: that these leadership commitments produce a doubling effect in local, private investment in 21st century jobs across the building sector and up and down the supply chain of products, professionals and services — not to mention greener building outcomes.  The research finds that this should be very good news for the Pacific Northwest, given the spillover benefits the researchers have found in neighboring communities. And King County is now the second in the nation to make this commitment at the LEED Platinum level.

Who was the first, you ask?  Well, the 2013 recipient of the Mayor Richard M. Daley Legacy Award for Global Leadership in Creating Sustainable Cities would be able to tell you.  It’s Greensburg, Kansas.  Greensburg’s Mayor Bob Dixson reinvented the Great Plains town as a model of sustainability and resiliency after a tornado struck hard in 2007.  Hear more about his story in the Greenbuild 2013 session, “The Rush to Resilience: an Investment worth Making.”

King County’s new ordinance should make waves in other areas, too, like green affordable housing, green infrastructure, and building a culture of performance and stewardship of public dollars. Read more on KingCounty.Gov, and join us in our campaign to promote government leadership with LEED.