State Legislation Requiring Adherence to Green Building Standards
Articles are written everyday about the benefits of changing people’s habits, using cleaner fuels for energy systems and incorporating sustainable building products into construction projects. Connecticut is a now officially a green state, at least according to the state legislature. A new state statute was passed requiring all buildings and building elements for new construction or renovation projects to be designed to “provide optimum cost-effective energy efficiency over the useful life of the building.”
A revision to the State Building Code is currently being written to require any building, with some exceptions, that requests a building permit on or after January 1, 2009, and is projected to cost five million dollars or more, to use building standards consistent with or exceeding the silver rating of the LEED rating system. Equivalent standards, including a two-globe rating in the Green Globes USA design program, are also acceptable per the new code. After January 1, 2010, the code will include projects that cost no less than two million dollars be built or renovated using these green construction standards.
Healthcare projects in Connecticut, whether it is new construction or a renovation project, will be affected by this legislation. The question is how. Hospitals around the country are embracing sustainable design concepts. Despite the unique obstacles that are associated with healthcare buildings, several have obtained various levels of LEED certification. The other question is whether the statute addresses all the issues related to implementing these concepts and green construction standards from a system such as LEED, which was not written as a state regulation or Building Code.
Here are just a few of the challenges that healthcare architects in Connecticut may face due to this new legislation. There is no mention of the various versions of LEED, Green Globes or other equivalent rating system appropriate to particular projects. Furthermore, they are constantly being revised and updated. For instance, there will soon be a LEED Healthcare rating system. How will this be regulated? It is unclear whether or not the statute will permit codes and regulations to specify a particular version of a rating system or a version of the rating system in effect at the time of permitting. The statute also does not define what costs are included in the stated dollar requirements for new construction and renovation projects. One of the greatest costs to specify, for example, would be if medical equipment costs count toward the dollar requirement.
As the influence of the sustainable building industry grows, so will political pressure to create legislation that embraces the concepts of the organizations that promote its use. Owners, facility managers, architects and engineers will be faced with reacting to how these design concepts are translated into regulations and how they are interpreted and mandated by State agencies. One thing is clear, and that is healthcare architecture will be significantly altered by these changes.