Grant Olear

Just across the Potomac from the USGBC headquarters in Washington, D.C., Arlington County, Virginia is updating its Green Building Incentive Program and adopting the latest version of the LEED green building rating system, v4, as the program’s standard—more than a year before the "sunset date" for project registration under LEED 2009. 

Beginning Oct. 1, developers applying for a density bonus under the program, using LEED, must seek certification under LEED v4. Under the update, projects are still required to achieve LEED certification at the Silver level or higher in order to qualify for a density bonus. 

The early update to LEED v4 illustrates Arlington County’s continued commitment to improving their built environment. In adopting LEED v4, Arlington pointed to the county’s Community Energy Plan, which has a specific milestone for the energy performance of new buildings. The county sought to incentivize higher levels of energy efficiency by moving to the new energy baseline prescribed by LEED v4. Officials also cited the successful track record of the incentive program, and the need for incentives to overcome barriers such as split incentives between developers and future tenants or owners, and the state’s low electricity rates.

Like other green building incentive programs in place across the country, Arlington County’s density bonus incentive program uses a tiered benefit system that rewards projects receiving higher levels of LEED certification with greater density bonuses. LEED Silver projects are eligible to receive a 0.25 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) bonus, LEED Gold projects may receive a 0.35 FAR bonus, and LEED Platinum facilities can obtain a 0.5 FAR bonus. Office buildings must also achieve an Energy Star score of at least 75 within four years of occupancy.

BeaconClarendon Apartments
Significantly, Arlington also added an energy performance requirement, to ensure ongoing achievement of energy efficiency. Projects receiving a density bonus must now track and report utility data for 10 years, post-occupancy, using the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager. This measure is intended to help the county evaluate the correlation between the predictive energy model used to design and construct the building and the actual energy used in the building. 

The updated program further incentivizes seven LEED credits that have been identified by the county as particularly relevant to the Arlington community—such as renewable energy production and light pollution reduction. These credits are included in the program as Arlington Priority Credits (APCs). Projects achieving one or more of the APCs are eligible to receive up to an additional .05 FAR bonus on top of the allotted bonus for achieving LEED certification. Net zero buildings may also receive additional FAR bonus, on a case-by-case basis.

“Arlington's voluntary green building incentive program is a business-friendly option designed to speed the transformation to green and energy efficient construction," commented Joan Kelsch, Arlington’s Green Building Program Manager. "Arlington’s move to LEED v4, with a specific focus on energy efficient design and performance, is the newest tool available to guide that transformation.”

Arlington County’s Green Building Density Bonus Program incentive scheme was established in 1999 and has been consistently updated in step with the ever-evolving standards of LEED. To date, the program has approved over 4 million square feet of office space and over 4,500 residential units with LEED commitments. Both the program and this update are are great examples of a community using LEED to meet its objectives, and we are proud to have our neighbors in Arlington County make this commitment to LEED v4.