Missouri Senate considers state-wide green building standard

Committee debates implementing standards to increase sustainability.

A Senate committee debated new green building standards Wednesday that would require state-funded construction to meet certain sustainable requirements, with some exceptions.

"The focus here is to lower the cost and increase the value of the property number one," sponsor of the bill, Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis, said. "It reduces waste to landfills. It conserves energy and water."

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard used by the U.S. Green Building Council is the guidepost for the Senate bill, which would require state buildings to have at least a silver certification.

Architect Joe Frigerio said this certification is not too hard to earn.

"You have to go a little bit out of your way," he said. "The basic standards would be a certified building, but as you progress from silver to gold to platinum it becomes increasingly more difficult. Platinum is very rare, but it can happen."

A building is awarded a set number of points for complying with guidelines including its location and water conservation.

Frigerio has been the senior architect for the renovation of Columbia's City Hall, a project on track for gold certification. These new building standards would have little effect on the university, Campus Facilities spokeswoman Karlan Seville said.

She said new mid-campus housing, including Defoe-Graham, Dogwood, Hawthorn and Galena residence halls, met 90 percent of the criteria for a silver-level certification.

"We're trying to change with the times, but also we have been doing a lot of this stuff for many years anyway," she said. "Our energy conservation program, we started that in 1990."

The university, Seville said, has taken many sustainability steps including the reuse of materials removed before renovations began in Tate and Switzler Hall.

Despite this and other sustainable methods the university uses, Seville said the university does not try to get LEED certification because of the cost. Kansas City sustainability consultant Janet Baker said 1 to 2 percent of a building's total cost is spent to get LEED certification.

"It's an upfront investment in energy and cost savings that will be enjoyed over the life of the building," she said.

For some of the university's newest projects, that is a hefty price tag, equal to almost $2 million dollars in some cases.

"Well, $203 million is the patient care tower," Seville said. "You know, that's a lot of money."

The university could create its own standards very similar to those of the GBC, Seville said. A third party could then evaluate the building. This could be more cost effective than paying for LEED certification.

Despite these initial costs, Columbia architect Nicholas Peckham, who testified for the bill during its hearing, said sustainable construction has many advantages. He helped design the Eco Schoolhouse in Columbia. The schoolhouse costs about 66 cents per square foot to operate, he said while other school buildings in the district cost anywhere from one to four dollars.

"There are some very significant reasons for the state and the senate to adopt these provisions," he said. "First and foremost it'll save money. Second it'll save energy. Third, the people in those structures will be healthier. And there's many more reasons to support this."

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, is sponsoring similar legislation.

"Everybody must start cutting back on energy usage and establishing these standards, this an important part of that," Bray said about her bill. "I don't think its fair for a few people to have to take the responsibility for being energy efficient, it's something that we all need to pitch in on."

If Wright-Jones' bill passes, it would only apply to state buildings larger than 5,000 square feet. The legislature would also be able to waive the point requirements for economic reasons.

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