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Regional Energy and Sustainability Legislations
July 2009

By: Kristina Koepke and Maureen K. Roskoski

“Green trends” has become a common phrase used throughout the United States. If you haven’t participated in one of these trends, there’s no doubt you’ve at least heard the phrase. After all, it has become the pinnacle of advertising. Companies are using “green trends” to highlight their sustainable initiatives, and now the government is taking action by pushing towards a more sustainable and energy efficient nation. Now it is not only socially responsible to become more sustainable but the building where you live or work may actually face new requirements. With different legislations being passed at all levels of the government, how do you know what applies to your building? By what standards does your building need to adhere? What kinds of funding or tax break could you receive in order to achieve your sustainability goals?

To answer these questions, you must first know that there are two different types of legislation being passed:

Policies – Sustainability requirements that your building must adhere to during any new construction or major renovations. These requirements generally focus on either government owned and funded facilities or commercial buildings.

Incentives – What kind of tax rebates or grants can you receive for having a more sustainable building? Incentives focus mostly on two categories: energy efficiency and renewable energy.

By examining each category, you will have a better understanding of what standards apply to your building based on location, building type, and energy improvement type.


Is there talk of a new building or a major renovation to an existing building? Depending on the type of building and its location, there may be stringent energy and sustainability requirements. Listed below are the requirements each building must meet.


Federal Agencies
All buildings should purchase ENERGY STAR or Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) products when possible.
All buildings should work on reducing energy consumption by 2-3% every year. The goal is a 30% reduction from 2005 levels in 2015. Consider using renewable resources when feasible to help achieve this goal.
New buildings must meet energy requirements 30% under the current ASHRAE standards or the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).
– For new buildings or buildings undergoing major renovation, at least 30% of the hot water demand should be met by solar hot water heating unless it’s not cost effective over the life of the system.

Washington D.C.

Government owned or funded buildings
– All new District-owned commercial buildings must use ENERGY STAR’s Target Finder tool to rate energy consumption in relation to other comparable buildings. Each building needs to obtain a score of 75 or above, meaning the building is in the 75th percentile of all comparable buildings in terms of energy efficiency.
– All District-owned commercial buildings and public buildings over 10,000 square feet must use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager on a yearly basis to track and assess water and energy consumption over time. Statements will be made available publicly.
New public buildings and major renovations must achieve LEED-NC or LEED-CS at the Silver level.

Commercial buildings
– All new commercial and residential buildings must be built 30% more efficient than the minimum ASHRAE standards according to the 2008 Building Code. There is a one-year transition period where either the old 2003 code or the 2008 code can be used.
– All privately owned non-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet must achieve LEED-NC or LEED-CS at the Certified level starting in 2012. DC is currently examining incentives for early adopters.
– All privately owned buildings over 50,000 square feet must use ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager on a yearly basis. Statements will be made available publicly. The requirement is incremental, starting at 200,000 square feet in 2010 and going down 50,000 square feet in size each year until 2013.


Government owned or funded buildings
– All new state buildings and schools constructed with state assistance or major renovations must meet standards for a high performance building. This could be a LEED silver rating or comparable approved system. For fiscal years 2010 through 2014, the state will pay 50% of the local share of the extra costs for new schools.


Government owned or funded buildings
– Virginia has no requirements for high performance buildings, however; it is recommended that newly-constructed state-owned facilities over 5,000 square feet or major renovations to existing buildings should meet LEED and ENERGY STAR standards. It is important to note that these are the only laws currently in place. There are other measures currently under discussion for future implementation.


So, now you know what’s required of your building at this time, it’s also important to know what aid you can receive in order to become more sustainable. Even if your building does not have requirements, it may be economically feasible to make the change.


Energy Efficiency
– Offers a $.30-$1.80 per square foot tax deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings through 2013. Improvements must work towards a reduction of 50% in comparison to minimum ASHRAE standards.

Renewable Energy
– Additional tax depreciation deduction of 50% for buildings that place renewable energy sources into service in 2008 or 2009. The system must have a recovery period of 20 years or less under normal federal tax depreciation rules and acquired or placed into service in 2008 or 2009.
– A tax credit or federal grant is available for up to 10-30% of expenditures for renewable energy. This includes solar, fuel cells, small wind turbines, geothermal, microturbines and combined heat and power. Limits and qualifications depend on the type of energy.

Washington D.C.

Renewable Energy
– Offers tax rebates for solar and wind systems that are a minimum of 1 kW in size. The rebates are for $3/watt for the first 3 kW installed, $2/watt for the next 7 kW, and $1/watt for the next 10 kW up to $33,000 per site per fiscal year. Limits on this rebate include: must be a Pepco customer located in DC and the system must be completed within 6 months of receipt of the rebate. If you are looking at a system other than solar or wind, there should be incentives coming at the end of 2009.


Energy Efficiency
– Baltimore Gas and Electric offers up to 50% of the total cost for retrofit projects and 75% of incremental cost of new construction on commercial buildings for energy efficient products such as: lighting fixtures and sensors, motors, unitary HVAC, chillers, and variable frequency drives. Small businesses that use 60 kW or less month can receive incentives up to 80% of the lighting upgrade cost.
– Montgomery County offers a 10% to 75% tax reduction for LEED rated commercial buildings.

Renewable Energy
– Maryland currently offers tax rebates for solar water heating, solar PV and geothermal heat pump systems. The funding has been exhausted for 2009 but applications for 2010 funding will be reviewed after July 1, 2009. These systems are also exempt from sales tax. Wind systems will be exempt after July 1, 2009.
– Harford County offers a tax credit equal to one year of total real property taxes or $2,500, whichever is less for solar or geothermal devices.
– There is also an option in place that allows local tax reduction for solar and geothermal devices. Talk to your specific local government for their policy.


Energy Efficiency
– The property tax of energy-efficient buildings can be assessed at a reduced rate. An energy-efficient building is defined as any building that exceeds the energy efficiency standards of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code by 30%; meets performance standards of the Green Globes Green Building Rating System, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) System, or the EarthCraft House Program; or qualifies as an ENERGY STAR home under federal ENERGY STAR criteria.
– Arlington County offers bonus densities and/or heights to building projects which received LEED® certification. Buildings are considered on a case-by-case basis. All projects require a site plan and must pay $.0045/ SF to the green building fund if LEED® certification is not achieved.

Renewable Energy
– Virginia allows local tax exemption for solar energy or recycling equipment. Check with your local government for their policy.

Incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy have been increasing over time. If you have questions about the current policies and incentives that your building qualifies under, always check with your local building officials or government representatives. ##


Kristina Koepke, E.I.T., is a Mechanical Engineer with Facility Engineering Associates, P.C. (FEA). Ms. Koepke earned her B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and holds a Masters of Engineering in Architectural Engineering with an emphasis in building structures from Pennsylvania State University. Her professional experience includes roof and facade assessments and structural wood evaluations, troubleshooting machinery in high use and harsh environments, design of an incandescent light bulb and work with assorted lighting systems, design of a hydraulic press, recumbent bicycles, miniature airplanes, and various mechanical parts, as well as experience with welding, machining, carbon fiber techniques and mechanical design programs.

Maureen K. Roskoski, REPA, LEED AP, has been an Environmental Analyst and Project Manager on a wide variety of projects during her 14+ years of practice. A leader at FEA regarding sustainability, she has worked with institutions such as American University and commercial facility managers on sustainability issues. Currently working on several sustainability and LEED – EB audits for commercial property managers, the World Bank, and for the National Education Association, Ms. Roskoski has developed a scorecard for sustainability practices to provide a benchmark for facility managers. She has authored papers and articles, and presented on the topic of Sustainable Facility Management including presentations in her area of expertise at the United States Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Conference and IFMA’s renowned World Workplace.

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