By Cody Winchester
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Four years ago, the South Dakota Legislature passed a bill requiring all new government buildings and major renovations to be certified under a program that encourages environmentally friendly construction.
Since the law went into effect, 13 state projects – eight new buildings and five renovations – have attained at least a silver designation in LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, as the law requires.
Ten have been registered and await certification.
State records also show that the state engineer’s office has waived the requirement for 32 projects where the costs of certification would have been prohibitive, or because the renovations would encompass less than half the building, or for other reasons.
“(LEED is) much better than a mandatory building code because you get a little wiggle room in these projects,” said Mike Mueller, a spokesman for the South Dakota Bureau of Administration, which brought the bill in 2008. “The state recognizes that we can’t pick a standard and then pursue it at any and all cost.”
In recent years, LEED has grown in popularity as a market-based approach to encouraging sustainable building. The program is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, an organization of builders, architects, developers and other stakeholders.
But South Dakota has been slow to adopt the standards. The state has 32 projects certified under LEED and 67 registered, according to U.S. Green Building Council records. On average, it takes South Dakota LEED projects about three years to move from registration to certification, compared with a national average of approximately 28 months.
“I don’t think the developers have really grabbed on,” said Stacey McMahan, a principal at Koch Hazard Architects in Sioux Falls.
Here’s how the program works: Developers – more often commercial than residential – are awarded points on a 100-point scale for including sustainability measures in the project’s design and construction. These include everything from low-flow toilets and native landscaping to complex renewable energy systems.
Some points are awarded automatically, based on the building’s proximity to public transit and essential services, for example, or for having a LEED-certified developer on the project team. More points mean a higher final designation of certified, silver, gold or platinum.1 2 3 next >>