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Jeremy Sigmon

"You're inventing a world we can't even recognize yet!" exclaimed Director Tommy Wells, Washington, DC’s acting director of its Department of the Environment to an audience of more than 400 local green building professionals last Thursday evening. The Green Tie Affair was a green building celebration, decorated with green ties of every description, and the kickoff to what promises to be a banner year for green building in the District of Columbia.

Alluding to the current media attention to the District of Columbia’s Initiative 71, Director Wells told the crowd that the Mayor would have loved to attend were it not for other “green” obligations. For this crowd of green real estate leaders, the accelerated uptake of green building and LEED is what gets all the attention. Green building is booming in the District; and 2015 will be its biggest year yet. Even just this week, DC government will announce the Smarter DC Challenge, a citywide initiative for businesses and non-profit organizations to create their own sustainability programs.

USGBC president Roger Platt reminded the audience of a drumroll of recent and upcoming milestones, like: DC joining the LEED 100 Million Club; neighboring Maryland and Virginia in the Top 10 List for LEED in 2014; this year’s Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, to be hosted in DC by the USGBC-National Capital Region Chapter; and, of course, the upcoming one-year anniversary of the DC Green Construction Code. Enter a shiny new policy adoption case study!

USGBC President Roger Platt kicks off the green building celebration with a list of the DC area’s sustainability milestones, and by announcing USGBC’s new policy case study on the DC Green Construction Code.

Washington, DC: Building a Green Code is the first in a series of policy case studies that USGBC intends to publish highlighting best-in-class public policies and government programs that are driving green building across the country.  This first case study is a comprehensive look at the development and adoption process of one of the nation’s leading local green building codes (may others soon exceed it!).

The DC Green Construction Code (12 DCMR K), is based on the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), including compliance alternatives based on ASHRAE Standard 189.1 (189.1), Enterprise Green Communities, the National Green Building Standard and LEED. To account for the District’s own priorities, policies, and context, the code also incorporates more than 100 local amendments. The final product is one of the nation’s greenest building codes and applies to the scope of work for all commercial construction projects 10,000 square feet and larger and residential projects that are both 10,000 square feet and larger and four stories and higher.

USGBC’s Jeremy Sigmon (right) proudly displays the new policy case study with USGBC-NCR board member Frank Mobilio from Jones Lang LaSalle, and USGBC-NCR members Takehiro Nakamura from Perkins Eastman and Lauren Otto from Interplan. Frank also served as a voting member of the Green TAG that created the DC Green Construction Code.

There’s an amazing confluence of contributing market, policy and political factors behind this awesome regulatory reality, adopted in March of last year. Since then, localities across the country and around the world have been asking about how best to emulate the District’s effort. So, working closely with USGBC-National Capital Region Chapter, its leadership, and key DC government staff, we’ve developed this policy case study to tell everyone how it was done.

There are thousands of local governments across the country making sustainability commitments in their own ways. Most of them are still early in their journey of determining their best path towards a greener community.  Many have made bold commitments and had impressive results. Precious few have had the political leadership, market acumen, and policy mechanisms to create a dedicated funding stream to keep green building prioritized at every level—from the Mayor’s office to the plan review desk. With DC as an example, and a national effort underway to develop and deliver an upgraded set of green building codes, communities have the right starting points from which to begin their next level of sustainability initiatives.

Who will be the first to best DC government’s green building excellence and take the sustainable cities movement to new heights? Find out more at Greenbuild this fall!

“Here, in a town too often known for being divisive and for a lack of consensus,” Platt reminded the audience last week, “Greenbuild provides a model opportunity to shine a light on the progress that can be made when we strive for common ground and unite around a singular, nonpartisan purpose: to better the built environment.” And onward we go!

View the case study