USGBC+: Rhode Island Advances Green Building Policy

Winter 2018 PDF Written by Kiley Jacques


For a decade Rhode Island has pioneered sustainable design in the public sector. It was the first state in the nation to adopt the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, and the International Green Construction Code (IGCC). At their outset, however, those systems did not address real public property, which belongs to the state—that real public property became the domain of the 2006 Green Buildings Act, a policy requiring nonresidential public buildings to certify under the appropriate version of LEED.

The recent passage of bill S-0952A/H-5427A, which amends the Green Buildings Act, is in keeping with the state's long-standing commitment to sustainable building. The legislation has been in the works since 2014, when the Environmental Council of Rhode Island and the Green Infrastructure Coalition started talking more deeply about green infrastructure in the public sphere. (As the Ocean State, Rhode Island has a heightened appreciation for the need to protect its coastlines and waterways.) In late 2015, it was decided that there should be legislation in place to encourage the inclusion of green infrastructure in public projects. That idea resulted in an amendment to the Green Buildings Act that included the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) and LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED ND) as applicable standards for the construction of green infrastructure. After continual support from USGBC and USGBC Rhode Island Chapter, Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed the bill into law, making Rhode Island the first state to include SITES for the design and development of land that falls under the domain of public real property.

The updated legislation adheres to prior commitments while broadening sustainability and resilience measures to go beyond buildings. State and local governments taking on new public facilities projects that add public parks or landscapes that address the space between buildings will now apply SITES and/or LEED ND. “The Ocean State has taken a big step toward embracing sustainable development and landscapes,” says Jeremy Sigmon, USGBC's Director of Technical Policy. “By using these rating systems for public projects, Rhode Island is creating healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient places for its residents.”

Courtesy of USGBC+

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