Mandating Change in Illinois

By Danielle Wagner

The State of Illinois wants to demand more green from its buildings. The Illinois General Assembly recently passed the Green Buildings Act into legislation. The Act, effective as of July 24, 2009, mandates that state-funded building construction and major building renovation of state-owned facilities must obtain LEED, Green Globe or an equivalent sustainable building certification.

The Illinois General Assembly enacted this legislation based on the findings that a green building plan would reduce increasing costs of energy, preserve the environment, and cut pollution while using less energy.

Regardless of size, every project that falls within the guidelines must achieve the highest level of certification that is allowable according to its budget. If the building is less than 10,000 square feet, it must meet the highest standard of USGBC’s LEED rating system for new commercial construction and major renovation projects or an equivalent standard. However, certification is not required. If over 10,000 square feet, a building must achieve the silver building rating of LEED for new commercial construction and major renovation projects, or an equivalent standard. Building Certification is required for these larger projects.

Exemptions are granted to buildings determined not comfort conditioned by the Capital Development Board (CDB) such as warehouses and outbuildings. Agencies can also file for a waiver to the CDB as long as they document one of four explanations for the request; that the standards: exhibit an unreasonable financial burden, provide an unreasonable impediment to construction, impair the principal function of the building or compromise the historic nature of the structure.

The Board will also have the ability to require, in addition to any required certification standards, the implementation of at least one LEED alternative transportation criterion. These criterion can include access to public transportation, bicycle storage, changing rooms and showers and/or the use of alternative fuel vehicles.

Chicago has been trying to lead by example by working in a somewhat similar fashion for the past five years. In June 2004, Mayor Daley announced the adoption of the Chicago Standard, “a new set of construction standards guiding the design, construction and renovation of municipal facilities in a manner that provides healthier indoor environments, reduces operating costs and conserves energy and resources.” The Standard is largely based off of the USGBC’s LEED rating system focusing on elements such as sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation and design process.

In the same month that the Chicago Standard was announced, the Chicago Public Building Commission (PBC) unveiled the Morgan Park Police Station, the first police station in the country aimed at being certified by the USGBC. Since then, the PBC has achieved LEED certification for twenty buildings with another forty-three registered and awaiting certification, many Silver or Gold.

As outlined in the Environmental Action Agenda 2006, most municipal buildings such as police and fire stations, community colleges, public schools and libraries are to achieve at the least, LEED Silver certification with a goal of LEED Gold certification. The City is also looking to improve the efficiency of existing buildings by tracking building energy use and conducting retrofits. In an effort to implement these changes correctly and in good time, the City is set on hiring LEED Accredited Professionals with a goal of having two hundred LEED APs on staff by 2020. For the future, the PBC is exploring more opportunities with alternative energy, citing geothermal systems already installed in two new park field houses and in design stages on several others.

The Illinois Green Buildings Act and its standards will be evaluated five years after its enactment or after the completion of ten CDB green projects, whichever is first. Ideally, a post-construction energy audit at that time will show that state facilities have lowered utility costs and resource use because of this initiative. But the ultimate goal is to encourage private enterprises to follow the lead.

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