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Boston Plans to Go ‘Green’ on Large Building Projects

By Katie Zezima (The New York Times) - December 20, 2006

Boston plans to amend its building code to require that all large-scale private construction be “green.”

Under the new regulations, all private construction of at least 50,000 square feet must meet the minimum criteria of the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for new projects.

While other governments have adopted the association’s standards for private construction, Boston is believed to be the first city to revise its building code to adhere to them, said Taryn Holowka, an association spokeswoman.

The Washington City Council passed a bill earlier this month requiring private developers to follow the standards, which Mayor Anthony A. Williams is expected to sign next week.

The City of Pasadena, Calif., has required much of its private construction to meet the standards since April. The State of New Mexico requires new buildings over 15,000 square feet to comply with the standards, while 18 states and 12 federal agencies use them for new public buildings.

The change in Boston’s building code means that each project must meet at least 26 of 69 criteria the Green Building Council established. Developers can choose from the 69 items, which include construction with recycled content, water-efficient landscaping systems and proximity to public transportation. The city is adding four other criteria, including one that would pertain to a project involving historic preservation.

“Boston is growing, and this amendment helps us grow our sustainable green buildings, which are good for public health and air quality,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who started the initiative two years ago. “We’re doing what we should be doing, moving toward better environmental quality. We’re thinking about the future.”

The regulations, expected to be approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority on Thursday, will take effect upon being publicly posted next week. The Zoning Commission is expected to approve the regulations Jan. 10.

James W. Hunt III, Mr. Menino’s top environmental aide, said in a public hearing Tuesday that a commission would review all new construction projects to ensure they met the standards, which would shift and change over time.

“Our commitment is to grow this city in a sustainable way that enhances the quality of life and helps save on the bottom line,” Mr. Hunt said.

While environmentally friendly construction helps save money in the long run by reducing electricity and energy use, it is typically about 2 to 5 percent more expensive up front. But Mr. Menino said he encountered little resistance from developers and architects, many of whom are embracing the new standards.

“The long-term costs of not doing this are catastrophic,” said Hubert Murray, president of the Boston Society of Architects. “We don’t really have a choice. Yes, it’s a greater first cost, but with that investment we hope to defer the far greater cost of neglect.”