Sustainable Legislation in the General Assembly
Again, from the deep well of my enviro-feature interviews last fall …
You may have missed it last week — it’s not exactly a hot button in the General Assembly, after all — a handful of legislators launched another attempt to change the state’s environmental standards for its building practices.
“Green building” advocates say that what’s at issue is the fact that buildings are huge consumers of energy and are often full of environmental hazards — carpet glues, paints, poor ventilation, etc. The standard that this and similar bills aim for would, ostensibly, cut down on the state’s energy costs and possibly improve the indoor quality of life for state employees.
The bill introduced last Wednesday is inspired, somewhat, by the federal government’s building standard. The state legislators want new state offices and facilities to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s “silver” rating. (A similar bill was introduced last year but was continued to this year’s session.) Locally, city councilman Chris Hilbert has also made baby steps toward getting the city moving in this direction — he told me in October that he wants city buildings to meet the USGBC’s basic-level rating. But it’s not likely to happen this year. (To its credit, the city already had a hand in planning a silver-rated building — the new GRTC maintenance facility that will go up on South Side in the next year or so.)
And as for the GA legislation, Del. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, one of the bill's patrons whom I interviewed in October, said the green-building measure had some opposition from forestry interests, since one component of green building is to use materials that don’t deplete forests or other natural resources.
“You can have green buildings without adverse impact on the building industry,” Ebbin said, “and we’re trying to work with the Virginia forest industry to see what kind of adjustments we can make to encourage the use of Virginia woods. There’s also some misunderstanding about the way the [U.S.] Green Building Council awards these points that can encourage green building.”
A couple of buildings in the Richmond area are headed for the silver certification through the USGBC — CarMax’s headquarters in Goochland and the federal courthouse that’s on the rise on Broad Street.
There’s a similar bill in the Senate, too, and about four other bills (or resolutions) addressing issues like energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate change.