House Bill 207, approved unanimously in both the Maryland House and Senate and expected to be signed by Governor Martin O’Malley this Thursday, May 15, 2014 broadens the definition of a “high performance building” to include any building that complies with a nationally recognized and accepted green building code, guideline, or standard that is reviewed and recommended by the Maryland Green Building Council and approved by the Secretaries of Budget and Management and General Services.

At first blush that language sounds innocuous, however the bill portends fewer, if any, Maryland state and local government projects will be LEED certified in the future, in favor of projects built to the International Green Construction Code.

By way of background, existing law has required since 2008 that most new or renovated government buildings and new school buildings be constructed as high performance buildings. High performance building is defined as one that “meets or exceeds the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria for a silver rating,” a definition that has existed in state law since 2001.

That law has both resulted in significant government LEED building and been a driver for private sector LEED construction. In point of fact, only weeks ago USGBC announced that Maryland ranked #2 in the Top 10 States in the Nation for LEED Green Building.

But as I wrote in a blog post in November in anticipation of this legislation, IgCC About To Get A Boost In Maryland, the USGBC is falling out of favor in this very green state, including with school construction interests and others seeking state capital budget funding that are concerned LEED v4 strayed too far from high performance building. Those ‘post LEED’ forces combined to drive HB 207. And such is instructive, because those favoring this sidestepping of LEED were not lumber interests or “plastics” industry interests that have been involved in anti-LEED legislation in other states. In Maryland with a mature environmental industrial complex, buttressed by some 114 green building laws and codes, this Department of General Services bill was supported by local pro green building players.

The state will adopt a version of the 2012 IgCC for its specific use for government building before the new law goes into effect on October 1, 2014.

While not expressly authorized by the bill, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (“CHIPS”) rating system which is gaining momentum around the country, will all but certainly be tested in Maryland in future school construction.

It is also expected that this year Baltimore City and Montgomery County, Maryland will each adopt a local IgCC enactment as a voluntary alternative to existing mandatory LEED centric green building laws that impact all private construction.

Maryland was one of the first states to incentivize green building in 2001 with a tax credit tied to LEED. Today, Maryland is joining Washington DC and Virginia leading a nationwide trend sidestepping exclusively LEED centric green building laws. All of this should be good for green building, good for Maryland, and very good for the planet.

Article by Stuart Kaplow, appearing courtesy Green Building Law Update.

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Stuart Kaplow is an environmental attorney and the principal at the law firm that bears his name, Stuart D. Kaplow, P.A.

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