IAPMO Green Newsletter
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Fifty Percent Increase in Green Building Programs
Since 2007

Local policies to promote energy-efficient buildings continue to thrive despite prolonged economic downturn

In the wake of an extended global economic slump, local communities are pushing ahead and expanding their green building programs. More than one in five U.S. cities with populations greater than 50,000 surveyed by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) report having a policy to promote green buildings, accounting for more than 53 million people. The AIA initially conducted this survey in 2007 for a Local Leaders in Sustainability report that has just been updated. The new report, Green Building Policy in a Changing Economic Environment, is an inventory of policies and best practices intended to help policymakers advance a more sustainable legislative agenda for growth and development.

The report also contains detailed case studies of the green building programs in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Nashville, and Grand Rapids, Mich.

"My passion for sustainability really comes out of the social side of the 'triple bottom line,'" said Grand Rapids Mayor, George Heartwell. "We have hit a tipping point here in Grand Rapids, as I think that we are at the point now where the arguments around cost, have been proven to be, if not fallacious, at least weak arguments when you look at the long term costs of maintaining a green building." Hear more from Mayor Heartwell in a recent interview by AIA Director, Local Relations, Brooks Rainwater.

"It is encouraging that cities are recognizing the economic benefits of energy-efficient buildings, and equally encouraging that the number of programs across the country are increasing despite such difficult economic conditions," said AIA Executive Vice President / CEO, Christine McEntee. "Our ultimate goal is to achieve carbon neutrality in buildings by 2030 and that all design projects will be sustainable as a matter of course."

Highlights from the report:

  • 138 cities have green building programs, compared with 92 cities in 2007 – an increase of 50 percent
  • 24 of the 25 most populated metropolitan regions in the United States are built around cities with a green building policy
  • The Western region has the most green building programs with 56 cities in just six states
  • The Mountain region is second in the percentage of cities with green building programs, with 24 percent of residents living in those cities
  • The Eastern region has seen a 75 percent rise in green building programs since 2007
  • The central region has 21 cities with green building programs


  • Hire a director of sustainability
  • Train and accredit municipal employees
  • Pursue green economic development
  • Implement additional sustainability initiatives
  • Remove legal barriers
  • Make program regional
  • Take community-wide approach to green building and planning
  • Utilize training and experience of architects
  • Be inclusive
  • Keep it simple

McEntee added, "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping to move sustainability efforts forward, with programs such as the Energy Efficient and Conservation Block Grant that are providing an unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of green building efforts nationwide. The inclusion of strong green building provisions in energy and climate legislation before Congress shows that our message about the importance of sustainable design is getting through."

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