Issue: 6/05

According to an article in the Apr. 22 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Washington has become the first state in the nation to require new prisons, offices, schools, colleges and other publicly funded buildings to meet a national environmental standard.

The law, signed this month by Gov. Christine Gregoire, is expected to affect billions of dollars' worth of construction projects over the next few years. Lawmakers are convinced that the higher upfront costs of going green will pencil out in the long run, thanks to cheaper utility and maintenance bills.

Green buildings also are supposed to be healthier inside-using non-toxic paints and glues, and relying more on natural light and ventilation. They also help the environment by reducing the demand on hydropower, reducing construction waste and soaking up storm water that can flush pollution into the water supply. The biggest drawback continues to be the cost of installing green measures like cultivated roofs, solar panels, thermal windows, and water reuse systems.

The law in Washington, which takes effect this summer, affects all publicly funded buildings over 5,000 square feet. Requirements for K-12 schools will be phased in. To pass muster, public buildings will have to meet standards set under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Pittsburgh and Boston are among the cities that have adopted strong green-building programs.