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2/11/2013 | Construction Blog

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering legislation that would require the design, construction, and renovation of certain state-owned or leased properties to comply with specified energy and environmental building standards. House Bill 34, the lead proponent of which is Representative Kate Harper of Montgomery County, is largely identical to a bill introduced last session.

Designed to promote effective energy and environmental standards for the construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of Commonwealth buildings, the proposed law details 11 different goals. The standards set out in section 4 set minimum criteria for “high performance buildings” – which is defined as a building designed to achieve integrated systems design and construction so as to significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact of the built environment – by mandating the inclusion of performance based categories or credits that will foster achievement of the stated goals of the Act. It further requires documentation, verifiable calculations, or an equivalent procedure to substantiate and support any claim relating to those minimum criteria.

Like the LEED certification process, a third party reviewer must be brought in post-construction for verification of the achievement standards. The third party verification must be done by an organization that has a track record of certified green buildings in the United States and uses a consensus based rating system. This narrows the field of possible parties available to perform the required third party approval significantly and begs the question of why a simpler approach like requiring certain LEED certification standards was not used.

Logo Energy StarThe statute would also require that “Major Facility Projects” achieve an Energy Star rating of 75 or above. Major Facility Projects are defined as state owned or leased buildings with larger than 20,000 gross square feet and in which Commonwealth agencies occupy 90% or more of the space. A further limitation is set by restricting the rating requirement solely to buildings for which the Environmental Protection Agency provides Energy Star ratings. In its current form, the Department of General Services would be empowered to develop and issue regulations for compliance with the Act, to adopt high performance building standards based on accepted industry norms, and to define procedures and methods for verifying compliance.

The legislation was only recently introduced and remains in its early stages. It is not likely to pass in its current form, as amendments are expected when it makes its way onto the floor of the House and goes to the Senate for consideration. Among the changes could be to simply choose a certification process like LEED and simply require that it be met. Efforts to build consensus for the bill may be a determining factor in how the bill is revised. For now, it seems unlikely that this will get significant attention in the very near future given the other issues, including the Governor’s budget, with which the legislature is currently grappling.