A Wisconsin lawmaker is easing some of the requirements in his green building bill making its way through the state Capitol. But the changes may not go far enough to gain some municipal groups’ support.
State Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, said his bill still would require all public buildings of at least 10,000 square feet — including state, municipal and public school district projects — be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards. But the measure no longer would mandate LEED certification.
“We’re making it flexible enough so that the (Wisconsin Department of Administration) would determine whether a building is built to an energy efficient standard that, at the base, meets the LEED silver standard,” he said. “That way, the third party review doesn’t have to be the (U.S. Green Building Council). It can be Green Globes or any similar type of third party audit.”
Green Globes was developed by the Green Building Initiative as an alternative to LEED and is the preferred green building standard in Canada. The Green Globes registration and verification cost is about $5,000 to $7,000 per project, which is less than LEED’s general certification costs of $10,000 or more.
An executive session on the bill was scheduled for Wednesday, but Molepske postponed the vote. He said he still wants to speak with some of the bill’s detractors and give members of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, the Economy and Small Business at least 24 hours to review any changes.
The Wisconsin Alliance of Cities originally opposed the bill, and Executive Director Ed Huck said he has not seen any changes yet. Huck said he is encouraged by Molepske’s openness to other third party reviews, but is not reversing his opposition yet.
“It would take some significant steps to move us,” he said. “But we’re open.”
Molepske’s original bill also failed to gain support from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities — the league was officially neutral — and Curt Witynski, the group’s assistant director, said the changes likely would not be enough to gain the league’s backing. But, Witynski said, Molepske is “heading in the right direction.”
Nobody challenged the original bill’s intent to encourage development of more green buildings in Wisconsin, Molepske said. Instead, he said, the battle has been over how to achieve that goal. He said LEED silver standards should not be difficult for builders.
“It was said in testimony that if you’re not already building to LEED silver, you should find a new job,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to get there.”
Eric Truelove, director of sustainable design services for The Renschler Co., Madison, disagreed.
“My concern is people saying, ‘We’re already doing this,’” he said.
Developers might loosely follow green building standards, but without third party verification, Truelove said, it’s difficult to support their claims of being green. The reason many buildings do not get LEED certified, he said, is because of the associated costs and paperwork.
It’s helpful to open the field up to include Green Globes and other certification processes — Truelove said Renschler developed its own certification process that can be done for $1,000 — but he said allowing a third party of the owner’s choosing opens the doors to dishonesty.
“People are generally good,” he said. “But people will also say they’re doing things when no one’s watching.”
A companion bill by state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, has been introduced to the Senate Committee on Ethics Reform and Government Operations. Terry Tuschen, the committee clerk, said the committee will not hold any hearings until early April, and that no hearings have been scheduled for the green building bill.
Molepske said the Assembly version will be ready Tuesday for a committee vote.
“The intent always was in the bill to make sure the projects were built with audits,” he said. “We still want to accomplish that original goal.”