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Green building bill needs a red light

By Chris Thompson

There are few things more reckless than a politician in a hurry.

State Rep. Louis Molepske Jr. is one such politician. The Stevens Point Democrat is in a rush to slam his green building bill into state law before the legislative session ends in April.

The bill would require new public buildings or building additions of at least 10,000 gross square feet achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification. The bill would extend the requirement to state government, local government and public school district projects.

But the bill is drawing a mix of support, questions and opposition from the industry, local government officials and school district representatives. Some worry about building code changes, others fret over costs, and still others wonder why such building standards should be mandated.

Someone should ask why Molepske chose LEED silver certification. Why not the Green Globes system? Why wouldn’t Molepske take the time to work with state building officials, planners and architects to develop a thoughtful energy-efficiency system for construction that directly matches the environment, climate and industry in Wisconsin?

Molepske has said he’s willing to talk to people about their questions and concerns but unwilling, at least right now, to budge on the details of the bill.

That’s the kind of answer someone gives when they’re watching the clock rather than listening to those who have a stake in what should never be a rushed decision.

Chris Thompson is the editor of The Daily Reporter. He is often accused of being a clock-watcher.


  1. Keith Spruce, Architect

    The rockets are in flight regarding green building code legislation in Wisconsin, the newest kid on the block, AB 843 on the skids of U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED-Silver Rating system and ported locally by the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance, is missing the jet fuel called a ‘cost factor analysis’. It’s big brother, the massive joint AB 649/SB 450 aka The Clean Energy & Jobs Act so far has cleared the first round of economic scrutiny and is now docked for cuts and edits, promising to be back in flight by the end of April. It promises PSC computed energy cost saving electrical utility rates, for example, ranging from 0.7% to 5.4% through the year 2025 recognized as a valid study by the Senate Select Committee on Energy.

    Both bills attempt to codify the executive order mandate of a 30% higher performance for green building for state building projects, which we already have in force. But the LEED bill gets out the corral attempting to apply high performance green building standards to much of our commercial building construction projects; a precursor of an idea that points to the future world on alternative energy and environmental healing, all great ideas if we could afford to do it.

    The LEED bill further uses a voluntary rating system which seems daunting to covert into an enforceable building code, while the Clean Energy bill rightly leaves that task to Commerce’s Safety & Buildings to integrate an already available new green building code and standards developed by industry consensus into our existing suite of adopted codes such as the International Green Construction Code and ASHRAE 189.1 standard for high performance buildings.

    All in all, the PSC study concludes in all likelihood Wisconsin will be spending more on electricity in the long run if we don’t act to embrace renewable portfolio standards and take more aggressive action on energy efficiency– all in the interest of a securing a stable energy economy for Wisconsin’s future.

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