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Building the
Garden State

Jennifer Senick Maren Haus Pinky Samat
By Jennifer Senick, Founder & Executive Director
Maren L. Haus, Research Project Manager
Pinky Samat, Research Architect, Rutgers
Center for Green Building

"Green” design focuses on sustainable site management, reduced water consumption, increased energy efficiency, efficient use of raw material resources and better air quality. The goal is to reduce the strain on local infrastructure and prevent degradation of the natural environment caused by our buildings. In addition, green buildings also contribute to positive economic and health outcomes.

Green buildings are cheaper to operate, are more valuable at resale, and are more comfortable to live and work in. There are many means through which to promote green building. One of these is through building codes.

Green Building Codes (see graph below) Building codes set the minimum standards and address the health, safety and welfare of the occupants by regulating and controlling the design, construction, quality of materials, use and occupancy, location and maintenance of all buildings, structures and certain equipment.1 Although some buildings are designed to exceed requirements, most buildings today are built to code.

Conceptual drawing of green building

National model construction codes as adopted by most U.S. states and some cities ( and by the State of New Jersey, through the Uniform Construction Code) are:

• International Code Council (ICC) codes,
• American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE) energy code, and
• National Fire Protection Association codes.

For example, the newest versions of the energy subcodes—e.g., IECC 2009 for residential buildings and ASHRAE 90.1-2007 are expected to result in significant efficiency gains and may be adopted by states (including ours) this year. In addition, Proposed Standard 189.1, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, which is in its third public review comment period will provide minimum requirements for the design of high-performance new commercial buildings and major renovation projects.

It is being developed by ASHRAE, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). According to ASHRAE, by applying the minimum set of prescriptive recommendations, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 provides 10 to 40 percent energy savings over those provided by ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007, including plug and process loads and all other energy consumption for the building, with an average of 24.9 percent for all climates.2

A second means to promote green building is through the application of green building guidelines and programs. Building codes tend not to address many aspects of green building such as sustainable site planning or whether building materials are recycled or locally harvested. In some states, sustainable site planning falls under a municipal land use code; in others it plays less of a role. Until recently, recommendations for sustainable materials were not readily available.

Frequently referenced green building guidelines and programs include LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), EPA Energy Star Program, EPA Water Sense, EPA Indoor Air Quality, the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines, and also Green Globes Design (and in New Jersey, the Green Future Program of the New Jersey Home Mortgage Finance Agency).

The National Green Building Standard™, also known as ICC 700-2008, is based on the NAHB Model Green Building Guidelines. It is the first and only green building standard to be approved by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) – which allows the NGBC to be adopted by a state or municipality (in some states, though not New Jersey) as code. Without ANSI approval, green building standards such as LEED can only be adopted as a reference in municipal ordinances, state legislation regarding public buildings and private-sector incentive programs.

In addition, there are now green product standards and certification programs that can help consumers identify products that meet predefined green criteria. Leading green product standards and programs include:

ENERGY STAR identifies efficient products that reliably deliver energy savings and environmental benefits
WaterSense – identifies high performing, water efficient products and practices
Cradle to Cradle certifies products based on lifecycle of materials used to construct a product and the overall lifecycle of the product
GREENGUARD Certification Program certifies products and processes for their low chemical emissions and low toxicity
Green Seal certifies products and practices for their low toxicity and overall environmental impact
GreenSpec Directory a published resource on environmentally preferable products
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) - certifies wood products coming from forests managed to meet social economic and ecological needs
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) - certifies wood products coming from well-managed forests and responsible procurement practices

EDA Technology Center
The EDA Technology Center was awarded the LEED Gold Core & Shell Rating in 2006. Its green features include: Brownfield Site Redevelopment, use of Low-Flow plumbing fixtures, 20 percent more Energy Efficient than ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999, Healthy Materials, Daylighting and views.

The State of New Jersey, long recognized as an environmental leader, has placed a large emphasis on green building recently in recognition of its mitigating influence on energy use and green house gas emissions. Green buildings use energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies that can lower energy consumption by 30-50 percent annually, reducing utility bills and decreasing demand on electrical power plants. Green building strategies include energy efficiency, use of locally harvested or recycled building materials, water reuse, solid waste management and recycling, appropriate site location, building orientation, natural ventilation and daylighting. All these help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change. By avoiding the economic impacts associated with increasing energy costs and GHG emissions, green buildings contribute to the state’s long term energy security. The economic savings generated by green design elements directly benefit those who pay for the costs of building operations.

A number of bills have been proposed and/or enacted which cite green building standards. For example, Assembly Bill (A3930) requires existing state buildings to be designed and constructed in a manner that achieves at least: a Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating (“LEED”); a two Green Globe rating; or a comparable numeric rating. Assembly Bill (A4529) requires the design of new public schools to incorporate the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” (LEED) guidelines.

In addition, the state has authorized the development of a New Jersey Green Building Manual (Bill 2152). This manual is being developed by the Rutgers Center for Green Building and will be completed by Summer 2010. It will offer consistent performance criteria that can be used by all state agencies for incentive and regulatory programs. The Manual will also be a resource for local governments and the private sector.

Benefits for New Jersey Municipalities Beyond the general benefits of green building listed earlier in this article, green building benefits can accrue to municipalities directly. For example, green building can help manage local environmental obligations, reduce municipal operating expenses, and accomplish master planning goals. Green building helps to reduce loadings on storm water systems and to cut down on both construction waste and ongoing solid waste disposal associated with buildings and their occupants.

Many green building programs also promote pedestrian access and community connectivity, wildlife species preservation, and high-quality green space. In summary, green building and the greening of building codes are highly contemporary topics in the Garden State. The greening of the built environment is important, most of all, for New Jersey municipalities in an on-going quest to preserve and improve our quality of life.

Green buildings help in advancing the state’s
Energy and Greenhouse gas reduction goals.

• NJ Global Warming Response Act
–1990 levels or below by 2020
–80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050
• NJ Global Warming Response Act Recommendation Report
–All new construction after 2030 will be net zero energy consumers
–Achieve a Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) recycling rate of 70 percent by 2020 (exceed 50 percent required) –Target: 90 percent of development to occur in areas already served by public infrastructure (Target 99 percent of this development to be redevelopment)
• NJ Energy Master Plan (EMP)
–Reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2020
–New buildings to be 30 percent more energy efficient than current code

–Meet 22.5 percent of electric needs with renewable energy by 2020


Sustainable Jersey

Sustainable Jersey ( is a new initiative that assists municipalities in realizing these green building benefits, among other sustainability objectives. It is a joint-undertaking of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future, the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey, the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Rutgers Center for Green Building, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

Sustainble Jersey contains two green building tools.
The first tool—Green Design for Commercial and Residential Buildings (private sector)—includes four components, as listed below.
Adopt a Green Building Policy (Prerequisite, 0 points)
Create a Green Building Scorecard (10 points)
Implement Green Design Standards Through Site Plan Review (20 points)
Distribute Green Building Educational Information (10 points)

Municipalities are encouraged to amend their Site Plan checklist to include green design standards. (This will require the adoption of an ordinance to amend the Site Plan checklist.) Site Plan approval would then become conditional on fulfillment of these items, for which statutory authority is given by N.J.S.A. 40:55D-41 (contents of Site Plan ordinance).

In incorporating green design standards, municipalities are encouraged to review their land development ordinances to ensure correspondence between Site Plan checklist items and these ordinances. In some cases, ordinances may need to be amended; in others, new ordinances may be needed. Note also that Section 19 of the Municipal Land Use Law (P.L. 1975, c.291) codified at N.J.S.A. 40:55D-28, which authorizes a local planning board to include in its master plan a “green buildings and environmental sustainability plan element,” was recently enacted as Assembly Bill A1559. The purpose of this new Master Plan element is to encourage and promote, among other things, “the efficient use of natural resources [and] …the impact of buildings on the local, regional and global environment…through site orientation and design.”

The tool includes sample Site Plan checklists and land development ordinances that support the promotion of green building for commercial and residential development.

A second green building tool—Upgrade and Retrofit for Municipal Buildings—also includes four components and corresponding resources to implement them. For example, this tool provides detailed guidance for municipalities that wish to increase construction waste recycling. ‘NJDEP Creating Sustainable Communities: A Guide for Developers and Communities, Waste Management – Recycling and Composting’, contains guidance and resources on a wide range of waste management program initiatives including construction demolition and recycling.

The Rutgers Center for Green Building promotes green building through research, education and training, and partnerships with industry, government and not-for-profit agencies. For more information, visit

1 International Code Council

2 Dunlop, Jodi. (2009) “ASHRAE green building standard (189.1P) opens for second public review” Building Design and Construction. March 3, 2009.

This article was originally published in New Jersey Municipalities magazine. Vol. 86, No. 6, June 2009




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