The Nation’s Capital is positioned to be a national leader in “green” construction - residential, commercial, and renovations as well. If you are new to the DC area or new to the green building movement you might not be aware of the many resources, regulations, and incentives that apply to green construction and renovation projects in Washington, DC. The District Department of the Environment is the perfect starting point to learn more.
The District’s Green Building Act, passed in 2006, requires that new construction comply with LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, “green” building standards. The rules apply to all private buildings over 50,000 square feet. Those buildings must disclose their annual water and energy use to the District government.
The District Department of the Environment offers access to more information and resources related to green building. The Guide to Green Building, also available from the District Department for the Environment, describes principles, practices, and resources.
The District government offers a suite of online planning tools for property owners. The Green Up program offers resources for projects of all types and sizes. There are sections on rain gardens, energy conservation, tree planting, and storm water runoff. The site also offers an overview of incentives available for energy projects and storm water control projects. Interested users can register their own projects with the site and view past projects on a map.
Planning a green building renovation? The District does provide some tools and resources that can manage commercial or residential building renovations. Benchmarking tools can help the owner determine how the building is performing now. A program called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is an incentive program to help commercial property owners finance energy efficiency improvements.
The District government does not provide or link to any resources to help calculate how much money a project might save. Likewise, the District does not help people calculate savings from energy projects like solar panel installation. How long will it take for the solar panels to pay for themselves? A system that meets 25% of the home’s electricity needs might cost $12,000 after applicable tax credits, but will save the home owner $40 a month.
This cost and saving information is helpful at the beginning of a green building renovation. For commercial spaces and larger apartment buildings these calculations can reveal how much it will cost to comply with DC green building requirements.
Homeowners have more options when it comes to green renovation plans. The DC Department of the Environment offers guidance to homeowners who want to conduct an energy audit. This will help you determine where to put your renovation money. Recent utility bills will provide a good baseline measure of current expenses.
The District offers incentives to encourage green technologies, recycling, and so forth. The District offers a Renewable Energy Incentive Program (REIP). The program offers access to tools and information relevant to using renewable energy. For example, the program offers a calculator that can show how many watt/hours of electricity a solar panel installation can be expected to produce.
While DC does not currently offer incentives for solar energy use, the REIP page does have a link to information on federal incentives.