Last week was a bit quiet here at Green Building Law Blog as I attended a conference in Atlanta hosted by the EPA on greening building codes. The invitees to the conference were code officials, EPA personnel, developers, architects, non-governmental organization reps, a couple of attorneys and assorted other municipal and state officials. It was a great group and a well facilitated conference.
The first day of the conference was devoted to identifying barriers to greening the building codes. The barriers fell into 7 categories:
1. Procedural--lack of communication among stakeholders, lack of integration among agencies and codes (plumbing codes, etc.), no clear process for obtaining variances to statewide building codes, overextended staff resources, lack of enforcement of current codes
2. Capacity--Lack of experts in green building amongst code staff
3. Education/Perception--Green seen as elitist, expensive, difficult; Lack of certification and training amongst code officials, lack of examples
4. Legal--Standards of proof higher for green buildings than standard buildings for approvals, Federal and state preemption, conflicts with other laws (fire code, historical preservation), LEED not designed to be integrated into codes, risk of liability
5. Technical/Research--Lack of performance data on green systems and technologies, lack of definitions of green terminology, lack of clearinghouse of information on best practices, inaccessibility of financial data and cost/benefit analyses
6. Political--Partisanship, status quo interests, unions, property rights advocates, lack of political champion for greening codes
7. Financial--budget shortfalls (especially because of recession), jurisdiction for funding (state vs. local allocation) for code changes
Some of these barriers are more perception than reality, but perception is reality when it comes to making political change. In addition, most are very real---code changes require policial will and resources, and good communication among stakeholders both within the government and with the regulated community.