Green Building Incentives – Arlington County’s Approach

Court House Plaza
Arlington's Courthouse Square (image by Helgas Lobster Stew, CC 2.0 licensed)

I posted last week about my project, along with some other Menlo Park residents, to get some [intlink id=”606″ type=”post” target=”_blank”]incentives for energy efficient buildings[/intlink] into the Menlo Park building code. I put out a tweet on Twitter the other day to see if any of my “tweeps” had suggestions for me. Chris Cheatham, of the Green Building Law Update blog, turned me on to the Arlington County (Virginia) incentives.

The Arlington criteria are based on LEED certification levels, which mean they’re not as focused on energy efficiency as I’d like. On the other hand, the nature of the incentives themselves are very interesting. Arlington County is rewarding builders who achieve LEED Silver rating or higher with FAR (floor area ratios) “bonuses” of .15 to .35. This represents an additional 1,500 square feet of building on a 10,000 square foot lot.

Chris’s most recent blog post is focused on an interview with Joan Kelsch, an environmental planner for Arlington County, about the next update of the county’s incentives. When asked “Why LEED as the criteria for the incentives?” Kelsch responded:

LEED is the most widely accepted and understood green building rating system.  Until building codes call for more energy efficient and water efficient buildings, I think LEED is a good tool to guide more environmentally responsible development.  LEED addresses issues broader than just building code – indoor air quality, materials choices, embedded energy issues, waste management, etc.  I think LEED has played a critical role in helping the market transformation toward greener materials and process and will continue to do so.

I recommend taking a look at Chris’s post for the whole story.

I’m not sure a FAR bonus would work in Menlo Park, but it’s interesting to see what types of incentives municipalities are considering to encourage green building.

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