Green Building Standards: Why Mandating a Good Idea can be Bad Policy

Green Building Standards: Why Mandating a Good Idea can be Bad Policy

May 12, 2005

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“Every hitter likes fastballs, just like everybody likes ice cream. But you don’t like it when someone’s stuffing it into you by the gallon.”

Baseball Hall of Fame Slugger Reggie Jackson on facing fastball pitcher Nolan Ryan

What happens when you take a good idea for some and make it mandatory for all? Jurisdictions across the United States are finding out as they enact laws and executive orders requiring that all new government buildings be built to meet “green building” standards designed by the U.S. Green Building Council.[i] Governments at all levels are promoting the standards, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) as a one-size-fits-all strategy to make government buildings more environmentally friendly. Ironically, the standards were not designed to be used this way. LEED mandates are likely to raise the costs of housing for consumers as well as increase tax burdens of citizens in cities and towns that rigidly apply LEED to public projects.

[i] On its website (www.usgbc.org), the Green Building Council describes itself as “the nation's foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.” However, as of April 14, 2005, the membership list page did not list any members.