Feature Article

Navigating Incentives and Regulations for Green Building

When used in combination, incentives and regulations can be a powerful force for encouraging green buildings.

Hearst Corporation’s LEED Gold headquarters, which opened in 2006 in New York City, added a tower to the building’s original façade, built in 1928. The building was a recipient of the New York State Green Building Tax Credit.

Photo: Michael Ficeto, Hearst Corporation
You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, or so the proverb tells us. That may be why new approaches to design and construction seem to be most successful when they are introduced first as voluntary measures that can be used to garner green credentials, or, increasingly, to benefit from government incentives. But as new approaches gain market acceptance they also begin to show up as mandatory measures via codes or other regulations—quickly in some areas and very slowly in others.

Whereas incentives are welcomed by the private sector, green building requirements are not always greeted with as much enthusiasm. What regulations there are tend to begin in the public sector when governments make their own buildings meet environmental criteria. Now jurisdictions are beginning to extend regulations to the private sector as well, using a variety of approaches to mandate green building in both the commercial and residential arenas.

Green building incentives can offer significant financial benefits, and regulations are becoming increasingly common. This article explores a few of the incentive and regulatory mechanisms currently in place and some on the horizon, and provides tips for incorporating this information into design decisions.

Published March 31, 2008