Maryland has become the first state in the nation to embrace a green construction code, which green building advocates hope will pave the way (so to speak) for much more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly structures.
Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation passed this year by the General Assembly authorizing the application of the International Green Construction Code on all commercial buildings and residential buildings more than three stories high.
HB972, sponsored by Del. Dana Stein, D-Baltimore County, authorizes the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to adopt the code, and it enables local governments to do so as well.
In a year when lawmakers chose to study rather than act on most major environmental issues, the construction code measure is hailed by Stuart Kaplow, chairman of the US Green Building Council Maryland, as “the most significant environmental legislation adopted in Maryland this year.” He called it “pro-business and pro-environment”
Proponents say the green construction code is likely to expand energy-efficient and environmentally friendly building practices. It is faster, cheaper and easier to follow, they say, than the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, which puts off some developers because of the costs and delays in getting third-party certification of the green features in a building’s design and construction.
Why do green buildings matter? According to the USGBC, buildings account for 40% of US energy consumption, 39% of CO2 emissions and 13% water consumption. Building them greener can reduce energy use by up to 50%, CO2 emissions by as much as 39% and potable water use 40%.
(Construction cranes, 2008 Baltimore Sun photo by Doug Kapustin)