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Center for a Better South
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The green building revolution has taken hold nationwide and has begun in the South, although it is still lagging behind compared to other regions. Green buildings usually cost only 2 percent to 5 percent more to build - and costs are coming down as the market expands, according to several sources. But since a large commercial building costs about 10 times more to operate as to build over its lifespan, the increased upfront costs are easily paid back by reduced utility and maintenance costs.

Local governments have special reasons to encourage green building, and special tools at their disposal to promote it. Local governments often manage and pay for stormwater services, landfills, and drinking water supply and sewer systems. Some even operate electric utilities. Green buildings sharply reduce reliance on all of these systems.

Public schools may have the most to gain from adopting high performance green building standards. School buildings currently must meet building codes designed to ensure basic safety. But green schools are designed to go beyond basic safety to maximize student health and academic performance.

Recommendations

Recommendation 9: Southern states should require that all new state government buildings or retrofit projects meet LEED Silver or better green building standards.

Recommendation 10: Southern cities and counties should require that all local government facilities meet LEED Silver or better green building standards, and they should provide preferential permitting for private sector construction that meets these standards.

Recommendation 11: Local schools should be built to a LEED/CHPS standard. State and local governments should require LEED buildings and more.

Talking points

  • Adopting "green building" practices produce huge energy savings because buildings consumer 70 percent of energy in the United States. Energy savings, in turn, reduce pollution.

  • But green building goes further because it conserves water, uses better materials for the environment, reduces toxic air emissions and promotes sustainability.

  • Public sector buildings need to go green. Building something to green building standards only adds 2 percent to 5 percent to the total cost. And when you consider you'll achieve major energy savings quickly, the public will recoup its investment quickly.

  • Southern states should require public buildings, including school buildings, to be built to certified green standards to save energy and money, reduce pollution, promote sustainability and cut unhealthy indoor air pollution.

  • Local governments can participate in the green building revolution by adopting new strategies and incentives to reward builders who use green practices.


The West Quad dormitory at the University of South Carolina was the world's largest green dorm when it opened in late 2004. The 172,000-square-foot building uses 45 percent less energy and 20 percent less water than comparable buildings.
( Photo provided by the University of South Carolina.)

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