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Votes

Fairfax Updates Green Building Policy

New policy is result of new technology for green rating systems.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, pictured here in May, voted last week to update the county’s green building policy.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, pictured here in May, voted last week to update the county’s green building policy. Photo by Janelle Germanos.

The green building policy in Fairfax has been updated, requiring higher standards for residential, retail, office and other construction projects seeking approval for rezoning in the county.

“Fairfax County’s Green Building Policy is a major component of our board’s environmental agenda and my own efforts toward making Fairfax County a leader in energy efficiency. Business leaders understand the value of this policy not only for its environmental benefits, but also the savings they achieve and the competitive advantage of low energy costs,” said Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The vote was made at the July 1 Board of Supervisors meeting. Fairfax County first adopted a green building policy in 2007, as part of the Comprehensive Plan.

Now, the policy is updated to include changes that have been made in rating systems of green buildings.

LEED certification or equivalent programs, which are more clearly defined in the updated policy, are extended to industrial areas under the plan, and for proposals in high density areas. Green buildings in higher density areas must meet higher levels of performance to be certified green in these areas. The new plan also urges data collection of water and energy use within green buildings.

More than 100 developers have committed to design and construct green buildings since the policy began in 2007.

“The Green Building Policy is all about promoting sustainability in Fairfax County. This policy helps position office buildings, residential developments, industrial sites and other developments for an energy-efficient and competitive edge well into the future,” Bulova said.

The policy applies to development projects required to undergo the rezoning process. Under the updated policy, existing buildings looking to meet green standards are also supported. Infrastructure for electric car charging stations is also included in the plan.

Green buildings are buildings that have minimal effect on the environment through a decreased greenhouse gas emission through lower levels of water and energy consumption. Fairfax County government has built 16 green-certified buildings since 2008.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity addressed his concern with the fiscal impact of this policy, specifically with the electric car charging stations.

“Clearly, this policy has a cost to industry, clearly this has a cost to housing, it has a cost to commercial development — there is a cost impact,” Herrity said. “I think we have to look at the cost of this before we charge ahead.”

Some board members wanted to defer the decision, but this motion failed.

“I think the time has come to provide some guidance in our plan,” said Lee district Supervisor Jeff McKay. “I don’t know what delaying this accomplishes when people have been working on this and discussing this for this long.”

Supervisors John Cook, Pat Herrity and Michael Frey voted against the motion to update the green building policy.