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Build Green DC

Overview of Green Building in Washington, DC

With the passage of The Green Building Act of 2006, Washington, DC joined states and cities across the country in requiring green building design and construction. The requirements will phase in over several years, beginning with public buildings, followed by publicly financed buildings, and ending with private construction.

What is Green Building?

Green building or “sustainable” building is an approach to design and construction that maximizes energy and resource efficiency, protects the environment, and promotes healthier places to live and work.

Green building is important not just for its environmental benefits, but also for its economic and health benefits. Green building reduces the everyday energy costs for owners and renters, and provides significantly better indoor air quality for occupants.

Green building considers the entire life cycle of a structure and its component parts, focusing on efficiency in operating costs, as well as initial construction costs.

The specific elements of green building include the following (from Green Communities Criteria):

  • Integrated Design Process - sustainable building strategies are considered from the earliest stages of project planning, with a LEED-accredited professional or experienced green building design specialist participating at every stage.
  • Location and Neighborhood Fabric - locations that conserve resources, take advantage of existing infrastructure and civic amenities, are close to transportation and contribute to the fabric of healthy, livable communities.
  • Site Improvements - chosen to conserve natural resources, improve operational efficiencies, enhance health and promote non-automotive means of transit.
  • Water Conservation - utilization of water-efficient appliances and fixtures, low water landscaping and irrigation, and use of rainwater and graywater (water recaptured and recycled from showers, sinks and clothes washers) when possible.
  • Energy Efficiency - a guiding principle in all stages of development, including efficient construction methods, design and insulation of units for efficient heating and cooling, use of Energy Star appliances, and efficient interior and exterior lighting.
  • Materials Beneficial to the Environment - including reuse and recycling on the construction site to decrease waste, and use of building products and techniques that contribute to more durable, healthy and resource-efficient buildings.
  • Healthy Living Environment - including the use on safe biodegradable materials such as Low/No VOC paints and primers, adhesives, and sealants; use of materials and construction techniques to reduce mold and ensure adequate ventilation; garage isolation.
  • Operations and Maintenance - training for employees and residents to explain and assist in the preservation of the property’s green character.

What Will Change at DHCD?

Residential buildings

Beginning with the November 2007 RFP, DHCD will require that all residential projects submitted for financing consideration conduct an integrated design charrette to explore the most cost-effective ways to incorporate green building standards. The integrated design charrette is a mandatory element of the Green Communities Criteria, the new standard which residential projects will be required to meet. More information on the Green Communities Criteria is available online at

To facilitate the transition to green building, DHCD has partnered with the DC Green Communities Initiative (Enterprise Community Partners and GreenHOME) to offer up to $5,000 in grant funds to conduct integrated design charrettes for non-profit sponsored affordable housing projects. See announcement.

Non-residential buildings

All non-residential projects other than public schools will be required to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standard, available online at

The following additional standards also apply:

New construction - Energy Star Target Finder Tool minimum score (75) and annual benchmarking with Energy Star Portfolio Manager (See Energy Star websites in “Additional Information” below.)

Rehabilitation of existing buildings - exempt from Target Finder minimum score requirement. However, benchmarking with the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and the Energy Star Target Finder scoring, are still mandated. DHCD will be conducting outreach and education sessions, in concert with our local partners, to ensure that the transition to green building is as smooth as possible.

Additional Information

Green Building Standards

Enterprise Community Partners
Green Communities Criteria

US Green Building Council

Energy Star (US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy)
Energy Star Target Finder Tool
Energy Star Portfolio Manager

Practical Green Building Resources

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG)
Builders’ Recycling Guide: A Directory for Construction and Demolition Materials in the Metropolitan Washington Region

Affordable Housing Design Advisor

Building Technology Resources

US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Building Technologies Program

Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC)

Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH)

Global Green USA

Potential Green Building Financial Resources

Enterprise Community Partners
Green Communities

Home Depot Foundation

National Housing Trust (Green Affordable Housing Preservation Lending Initiative)
Pre-development and bridge loans

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