Panel OKs green building, universities lead the way

Laura Peters

Contributing Writer

Future state buildings would be designed to meet strict environmental standards under a bill unanimously endorsed by a Senate committee, but the bill’s sponsor says universities are already ahead of the game.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on voted 15-0 in favor of Senate Bill 109, called the Green Public Buildings Act.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, would require all new state buildings of more than 5,000 square feet to meet the LEED Silver or Green Globes “two globes” standard (LEED refers to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system). The requirement also would apply to major renovations of state buildings.

“The bill’s goal is to significantly reduce utility usage, preserve the environment and save taxpayer dollars,” Petersen told the Senate committee. He is a member of the panel.

Petersen said it is his intent to include all state universities under the proposed bill but it is still under review.

“Universities are way ahead of the state on this stuff now,” Petersen said. “I’m willing to bet VCU and other universities are building with these standards.”

The VCU Design and Construction Guideline complies with the All Governors’ Executive Order 48, which lays out the same building requirements as SB 109 under LEED standards for all executive branch agencies and institutions.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, Brian Ohlinger, said VCU has been building to LEED standards before Executive Order 48 was issued in 2007 by former Gov. Tim Kaine.

“Legislatively they’ve tried to pass this for the past four years and it never made it through,” Ohlinger said. “That’s why the governor passed the Executive Order.”

Ohlinger said there is no issue with enforcing the LEED building requirements on VCU’s state funded buildings versus its privately funded buildings.

“Any project that’s build in the state has to be authorized as a capital project,” Ohlinger said. “ It doesn’t matter where the money comes from, the process is still the same.”

According to the VCU Facilities Management Web site, capital projects are funded by State Appropriations, State Bonds, Privatization Funding and Lease Funding.

The Facilities and Management Web site states, “Projects financed through State Appropriations and State Bonds must follow the conventional biennial State budgeting cycle and are authorized in the Appropriation Act. The majority of VCU’s capital budget is developed based on this process.”

Under SB 109, the director of the state’s Department of General Services could exempt a construction or renovation project from the LEED standards if there are special circumstances.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for review.



To track the bill, visit:

  • The Legislative Information Service:
  • Richmond Sunlight:

VCU Design and Construction Guidelines

LEED Certification

General Sustainability Guidelines:

  • Buildings must be energy efficient and shall strive to achieve a maximum energy consumption rate of 100,000 BTU’s per square foot per year.
  • Lighting wattage should not exceed 1 watt per square foot total.
  • Landscape design shall reduce energy consumption in the building through the use of wind breaks and deciduous tree placement.
  • The use of carpet manufactured from bio-based materials or with high recycled post-consumer and/or post-industrial content is encouraged.
  • Carpet should comply with Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus Program.
  • The diversion of waste materials shall be accomplished through salvage, reuse, and recycling as defined in the project specifications with goals in keeping with LEED standards.

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