January 30, 2013

Virginia is first in LEED

Whoopee! Virginia may not be moving very quickly to offshore wind or other renewable energy, but my state is finally first in one important green initiative. Virginia was just listed as the top state on the 2012 List of Top 10 States for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which ranks states with the most buildings certified in energy efficiency features and such.

29.7 million square feet in 170 projects is something to brag about. Kudos to the builders and architects who made this happen!

James City County can take a bow for three county-owned buildings with at least silver LEED certifications: the Police Department at 4600 Opportunity Way, Building D, of the county office complex at 101 Mounts Bay Road and the Fire Administration Office at 5077 John Tyler Highway. Two more county buildings are in the works that will seek LEED certification too: a new Fire Station 4 on Olde Towne Road and a new Fire Station 1 in Toano.

The cost of building a LEED certified building is not necessarily more expensive than a regular building although the design and construction phases usually are. But if you factor in the savings over the years in lower operating costs, reduced waste sent to landfills, healthier air and water and energy savings, it's a win-win.

LEED design is measured according to: Sustainable sites, Water efficiency, Energy and atmosphere, Indoor environmental quality and Innovation in design.

York County does not have any county-owned LEED certified buildings at this time. Nor does the City of Williamsburg have any city-owned LEED certified buildings but they are seeking silver certification for the Municipal Building at 401 Lafayette St.

Virginia Code requires any new state government building where the building would be greater than 5,000 square feet or a renovated building where the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building, to conform to the Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards developed by the Department of General Services.

Perhaps we can make substantial reductions in heating and air conditioning costs in more of our huge buildings over the next decade and make coal-burning power plants truly obsolete. New Kohl's stores are making LEED claims and I am hoping that more commercial spaces and hotels can move toward this goal. I am tired of walking down Marriott hallways that are cooled to refrigeration temperatures.