Attachment C – Detailed Green Building and Sustainability Update


Green Building and Sustainability Update


The four areas the Board directed staff to pursue are as follows:


  1. Work with development community to promote green building and remove obstacles.


The County hosted EarthCraft training on January 18, 2007. This day-long workshop was attended by 50 professionals including architects, builders, and building specialists. Interest in a second training session is significant among members of the Blue Ridge Home Builders as well as other professionals. This training was a remarkable success with real impacts. Our meeting facilities have been offered for a future training session to be scheduled.


Staff has met with the Blue Ridge Home Builders Green Building Committee and their Director of Government Affairs. These meetings were to convey the County’s interest in collaboration and to review the Comprehensive Plan language propose by staff. As staff has ranked the proposed Comprehensive Plan language in three categories, we have requested that the Home Builders advise the Board of their position on the first tier of the proposed objectives and strategies (having the least impacts and obstacles to Board support).


  1. Work with the public to expand knowledge and benefits of green building


The sustainability exhibit at the Charlottesville Design Center reached hundreds of people and larger interest groups. Exposure to more information about sustainability, green building, and climate change is becoming a greater part of our every day lives through public service announcements, television programming, and interest groups, such as the Sierra Club.


The County’s website offers an opportunity to create a hub where green information resources can be managed and made available with little operational cost. Tax bills and other County mailings could include a supplemental flyer to advise residents on small and large changes they can make to be a greater part of the green movement or update them on ENERGYSTAR tax credits for consumers. In the past, these sorts of efforts have been managed with support from the County Executive’s Office and could continue to do so. With additional staff time and funding, a larger public outreach campaign could be launched. However, for the time being, staff feels that amending the Comprehensive Plan and working on internal operations is a better use of staff time as currently allocated. A coordinated campaign has been discussed favorably with City of Charlottesville representatives. However, staff believes that a unified public outreach campaign shared between both localities will be more manageable and successful once each locality has amended their Comprehensive Plan. To date, the City of Charlottesville has not adopted new green building and sustainability into their Comprehensive Plan. Their Planning Commission participated in a work session on green building and sustainability on January 23, 2007. No date has been set for Charlottesville City Council to finalize the proposed amendments to the Charlottesville Comprehensive Plan with respect to green building and sustainability.


  1. Work with County policy and operations to demonstrate and promote green building and overall efficiency.


In December of 2006, the County officially partnered with ENERGYSTAR. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that encourages a strategic method of energy management for homeowners, businesses and consumers. We are one of the first 115 Counties in the United States to join the program with the goal of reducing energy consumption throughout County owned and operated facilities. The decision to participate in ENERGY STAR is consistent with the County's Environmental Management Policy, signed by the County Executive in March 2004, which includes a commitment to environmental compliance, pollution prevention, and continuous environmental improvement.

The basic steps involved in ENERGY STAR participation include:  making a commitment to the program, forming an energy management team, adopting an energy policy, assessing energy performance through measuring and tracking, setting energy-use reduction goals, developing and implementing an energy management plan to reach these goals, and continually evaluating progress. 

Staff drafted the following timeline for beginning the program steps. This timeline is subject to periodic revision based on program development progress and staff time.


February 1st – 28th 2007

Ø       Collect utility and fuel-use data for past 24 months (or more) and put into electronic format. This information will be used to establish a baseline of County energy use.


March 1st – April 30th 2007

Ø       Establish an Energy Management Team, consisting of various County staff members, that will carry out the steps listed above, and coordinate overall program participation


May 1st – June 30th 2007

Ø       Draft Energy Management Policy


July 1st – August 31st 2007

Ø       Submit policy to County Executive for official approval

Ø       Energy Management Team to discuss goals/objectives/targets

o        Low/No-cost energy saving ideas

o        Higher-cost ideas that will require budget request(s)

o        Education/outreach component


September 1st – October 31st 2007

Ø       Begin work on Energy Management Plan

Ø       Develop action plan to carry out goals set


Cost Associated with Green Building


To better determine the financial impacts of green building on County facilities, staff is researching and compiling information related to the basic costs associated with obtaining LEED Certification. Regarding institutional buildings, LEED is nationally recognized and the most comprehensive green building rating system. Within the LEED standard, buildings can obtain basic certification or higher levels of silver, gold, or platinum. Local examples of LEED certification are the City of Charlottesville aiming to gain basic LEED certification for its new transit Center and Monticello aiming for LEED Platinum with its new visitors and education complex.


Staff is compiling cost information on the 14 LEED Certified buildings in Virginia. Estimates to construct lead certified buildings vary and the ability of professionals in our state to implement green buildings in a cost-effective manner is developing. We will also include cost information from other areas such as the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to expand the data set. Though only 14 buildings in Virginia have been LEED certified, 120 are in the pipeline. As these building are completed and gain certification, we will eventually know more about the up front costs of green building. Staff is will provide more detailed information concerning the cost of certification in conjunction of a review of the Crozet Library in March.


Life-Cycle Savings


It is important to note that while there are typically “upfront” costs incurred as a result of pursuing LEED Certification, one of the main goals in the process of sustainable design is to obtain payback over the life of the building


Hard Costs


The cost of obtaining LEED Certification varies per project and is largely based on project scope, size, and the level of certification sought (certified, silver, gold, or platinum). For example, if the certification goal is the basic “certified” level, there may be little-extra cost incurred, whereas if the goal is “gold” or “platinum”-level certification, the cost incurred may be significantly higher.


Typically, there are hard and soft cost implications involved in obtaining any level of certification.  Hard or “fixed” costs include fees associated with going through the project registration and certification process, including a one-time, fixed-rate registration fee, and certification fees involving design and construction review.  These costs are detailed in the table below:


LEED Registration and Certification Fees1


Registration Fees





Fixed Rate











Certification Fees





Fixed Rate

Based on Square Feet

Fixed Rate

Design & Construction Review

< 50,000 Sq. Ft.

50,000 – 500,000 Sq. Ft.

>500,000 Sq. Ft.



$0.035 / Sq. Ft.




$0.045 / Sq. Ft.


1 Information taken directly from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) website

2 “Member” and “Non-Member” references relate to the optional USGBC Membership, which currently costs  



The following is a “hard cost” example: Registration and certification for a project involving the design and construction of a 42,000 square foot building, assuming the applicant is a member of the USGBC, would cost the applicant $2,700 ($450 registration fee, plus the $1,750 design and construction review fee, plus the $500 membership fee).


Project registration simply involves registering the project with the U.S. Green Building Council, which is typically done via their website. The design and construction review process involves a review of standard templates and supporting documentation that are submitted in pursuit of the various LEED credits. This review is done by USGBC staff. These hard/fixed costs are typically minimal relative to the overall project cost.


Soft Costs


Soft cost impacts can be defined as LEED-related aspects of the project that are “above and beyond” typical or standard design/construction project requirements. These aspects can be grouped into two categories:


Design Costs – Aspects of the project that increase the design team’s scope of work during the design and construction phases


Design costs fluctuate depending on the number and type of LEED credits sought, the level of LEED Certification desired, and the size of the project.  Another factor in design cost is the implementation of an integrated design process. This process is often used in sustainable building design and typically entails upfront planning and communication among all involved in the design process (architects, engineers, owner representatives, maintenance staff, etc), which is a relatively new process for many organizations.


Project Documentation and Application Costs – Aspects associated with documenting the project and submitting a LEED application to the U.S. Green Building Council.


Project documentation involves ensuring the project specifications are written so that various LEED credits can be achieved, and also includes the tracking and logging of various aspects of the project. The project documentation and application process is often managed by a LEED-accredited individual or architect/engineering (A/E) firm involved with the design of the project; therefore, the associated costs can differ based on the individual A/E firm’s fees for this service.  As these soft costs depend so much on the aforementioned variables, it is difficult to provide a total cost estimate for certification without a specific planned project or design in place.



  1. Amend the Comprehensive Plan in support of green building.


Objectives and strategies in support of the four areas the Board directed staff to advance have been ranked into three categories in Attachment B. Statements that do not require changes to the work plan or additional research are shown in green. Those statements that require additional staff time or funding are written in orange. Finally, statements that require staff time, research, and significant additional consideration regarding implementation are found in red. Staff will review these statements with the Planning Commission as old business in March in advance of the Commission forwarding a Comprehensive Plan amendment recommendation to the Board thereafter.


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