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St. Paul Embraces Green Building

December 22, 2009

In St. Paul, many construction projects using public funding will need to meet a new set of environmental guidelines, according to an ordinance passed Dec. 16. Under the new rules, projects that receive $200,000 or more of municipal money will need to build in accordance with a standardized rating system, such as the U.S Green Building Council’s LEED Silver for New Construction. There are seven different rating systems for builders to choose from.

Environmental guidelines for public-facility construction projects were first normalized in Minnesota in 2003. But the new set of guidelines makes the city the first in the state to require all new projects, public and private, that rely on city funding to meet standards for energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, and other concerns set by independent regulatory agencies.

While the new ordinance’s primary goal is to reduce carbon emissions in the city to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, St. Paul intends these guidelines to be more than an environmental initiative. Given the instability of property values over the past two years, potential buyers are coming to the table with higher expectations. More efficient and eco-friendly buildings offer a greater appeal, and save owners money on utility bills and upkeep. And these benefits come at little or no added construction cost. According to the city’s Web site, the new policy received unanimous support from the St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Association. With St. Paul leading the way, look for other cities to follow the capital’s example in setting green building guidelines.

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