Some interesting legislative developments are taking place right now in Nashville, Tennessee that implicate many of the green building policy issues that we’ve been wrestling with over the past few months here at GRELJ. Since 2007, metropolitan Nashville has required most new and major public projects to larger than 5000 square feet or costing more than $2 million to earn LEED certification. Recently, city councilman Duane Dominy of suburban Antioch introduced legislation that would “allow the Metropolitan Government to pursue an alternative sustainable development design standard to LEED certification based upon pre-determined energy reduction and efficiencies. If Metro chose to pursue an alternative to LEED, the contractor would be required to warrant for a three-year period that the annual energy use for the building will be less than similar buildings” or will earn a minimum score under EPA’s Energy Star program.
The reductions are staggered between 2010 and 2013 and beyond (10 percent through 25 percent, though the benchmark against which those reductions are measured is not set forth in the pending bill); Energy Star ratings would increase from 55 in 2010 to 75 in 2013 and beyond. An independent consultant would determine whether the required energy reduction is met; if not, the contractor (or, interestingly, another entity warranting the energy use) will be responsible for reimbursing the city for the cost of the excess energy use. The amendment is BL2009-503; a vote is slated for later this month. “This would allow an alternative that focuses on the performance of the building, not on the process of how you got to that performance,” Dominy told the Tennessean.
The genesis for the amendment is a 16-classroom addition to Antioch’s middle school, which uses an HVAC and building envelope system that does not qualify for credits under LEED (though it’s unclear exactly why this is the case). The contractor which designed and installed the system- Energy Systems, Inc. of Cookeville, Tennessee- is owned by Bob Southerlan, a former aerospace engineer who is “worried about being knocked out of the Metro construction market.”
I think that this is a critical battle to watch as it may suggest that local governments are coming to view LEED as something less than the mark of building performance; Mr. Dominy’s thoughts about process versus performance are particularly noteworthy in this context. It also echoes some of the remarks in the comments to Pat Murphy’s recent article as presented here at GRELJ (i.e., Mr. Murphy himself noted that “[t]here is a crying need for accurate, verificable and reliable energy rating systems. If LEED doesn’t fill the bill, other options will come forward.”) In addition, if it is true that Southerlan’s system is somehow excluded from the purview of LEED, there may be other, more serious problems with Nashville’s legislation from an antitrust perspective, which we’ll get into in a subsequent article.
- Nashville’s Green Building Code Under Review (Tennessean)