Rhode Island Enacts Green Building Law for Public Projects

By:   William E. Kelley, Jr., LEED AP

On November 9, 2009, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri signed into law a new Green Buildings Act, which imposes certain requirements on all new public projects in that state.  Among the most relevant requirements and terms in the Green Buildings Act are the following:

  • The law applies to any public project that is owned, leased, or controlled by the State of Rhode Island, including new construction projects larger than 5,000 gross square feet, or renovations involving more than 10,000 gross square feet of occupied or conditioned space.
  • All qualifying public projects must be designed and constructed to at least the LEED Certified standard or to “an equivalent high performance green building standard.”
  • A public project does not have to meet the LEED Certified or equivalent standard if there is no appropriate LEED or equivalent standard for that type of building or renovation project, or if there is no practical way to apply the LEED or equivalent standard to a particular project.  A “lesser” green building standard will be established for those particular projects.
  • The State will monitor and document ongoing operating savings that result from public buildings designed, constructed and certified under LEED or an equivalent rating system, and it will publish annual reports of findings and recommended changes in policy.
  • Perhaps most significantly from a legal perspective, the Green Buildings Act provides that no person, corporation, or entity shall be held liable for the failure of a project to meet the LEED Certified or equivalent standard, provided that there was a “good faith attempt” to achieve the standard set for the project.

In 2008 and 2009, the Indiana General Assembly considered, but did not pass, legislation that would have required public projects to achieve a designated level of certification or compliance under LEED, Green Globes, ENERGY STAR, or an equivalent rating system.  In 2008, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels also signed Executive Order 08-14, which directed that all new state buildings should be designed, constructed, and operated to achieve maximum energy efficiency, which could include certification under LEED, Green Globes or ENERGY STAR.  Given that other states, like Rhode Island, are not only considering, but actually enacting, green building legislation for public projects, it seems that the question is now “when” instead of “whether” Indiana will enact its own green building laws or standards for public projects.