PHOENIX, Arizona, November 16, 2009 (ENS) – More than one in five large U.S. cities surveyed by the American Institute of Architects has a policy of promoting green buildings, and the number of cities building green is on the rise. The AIA survey shows that 138 cities have green building programs, compared with 92 cities in 2007 – an increase of 50 percent.

All but one of the 25 most populated metropolitan regions in the United States are built around cities with a green building policy, the survey found.

The new AIA report, “Green Building Policy in a Changing Economic Environment,” was released last week to coincide with the 2009 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Phoenix, the green building movement’s largest annual conference.

Built to the LEED Platinum standard, the Water + Life Museums and Campus at Hemet, California feature one of the world’s largest institutional rooftop photovoltaic arrays. (Photo courtesy USGBC-LA Chapter)

“It is encouraging that cities are recognizing the economic benefits of energy-efficient buildings, and equally encouraging that the number of programs across the country are increasing despite such difficult economic conditions,” said AIA Executive Vice President and CEO Christine McEntee. “Our ultimate goal is to achieve carbon neutrality in buildings by 2030 and that all design projects will be sustainable as a matter of course.”

The Western region has the most green building programs with 56 cities in six states, while the Mountain region is second in the percentage of cities with green building programs, with 24 percent of residents living in those cities.

The Eastern region has seen a 75 percent rise in green building programs since 2007, and the central region has 21 cities with green building programs.

At Chase Field in Phoenix on Wednesday, 25,000 Greenbuild attendees heard former Vice President Al Gore’s now-famous views about the dangers of climate change and the economic benefits of building green. “I know where we can get at least two and a half million jobs,” Gore said, “by building green buildings and retrofitting buildings to LEED standards.”

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, standards are a voluntary set of criteria that were developed by conference sponsor the U.S. Green Building Council.

On Friday, the final day of Greenbuild, the U.S. Green Building Council, named the recipients of its 2009 Leadership Awards, recognizing organizations and individuals in the private, public and nongovernmental organization sectors who demonstrate vision, leadership and commitment to green building design and construction.

Rich Fedrizzi, founder of the USGBC (Photo courtesy Alliance to Save Energy)

“This year’s recipients are accelerating the green building industry through innovative ideas in tandem with strong leadership,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president, chief executive and founding chairman. “It is their passion, expertise and their tremendous contributions that allow us to move closer toward fulfilling our collective mission of transforming the built environment.”

This year’s Leadership in the Private Sector award went to Allan Skodowski, a LEED accredited professional, of the commercial real estate company Transwestern, and to Jones Lang LaSalle.

Under Skodowski’s leadership, Transwestern has overseen the greening of more than 250 million square feet of commercial space nationally.

With management of more than 1.3 billion square feet of construction space and billions of dollars in annual construction management volume, Jones Lang LaSalle has harnessed its size and scope to establish sustainability as smart business. The firm has instituted green building practices throughout its operations, establishing a preference for LEED-certified buildings for any new offices.

In the Leadership in the Public Sector category, the U.S. Army’s Construction and Engineering Research Laboratory received the award for its commitment to LEED certification in the facility acquisition process, with impacts on the multi-billion-dollar annual Military Construction program both in the United States and overseas.

Delegates at the Greenbuild 2009 event in Phoenix, Arizona (Photo by Kimball Office)

Beginning in 2008, all new MILCON projects must achieve LEED Silver certification and all design teams are required to include at least one LEED accredited professional. “The Army team was able to carry out a major change of culture in a long-standing facility acquisition process, committing to improving its infrastructure for current and future generations,” said the USGBC in making the award.

For Leadership in the Nongovernmental Organization Sector, three organizations were honored. Second Nature, the Association for Advancement in Sustainability in Higher Education, AASHE, and Eco-America were recognized for their work on the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, ACUPCC.

ACUPCC provides a framework and support for America’s colleges and universities to implement comprehensive plans in pursuit of climate neutrality. The ACUPCC emerged from planning sessions among these organizations at the AASHE conference in October 2006 at Arizona State University.

By June 2007, 284 presidents and chancellors from universities and colleges large and small had signed on to the Climate Commitment, and today 660 heads of institutions are signatories.

On Thursday, the United Negro College Fund announced that under a program set up with the help of Second Nature, it has received a $1.8 million grant from the Kresge Foundation that will help establish training programs to promote green building at minority-serving institutions.

The grant will establish institutes and workshops to train college staff members in green-building practices. The fund plans three workshops, in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and San Antonio, starting this February. The American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund will also participate.

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