HB 1029: Altering South Dakota’s State-Owned High Performance Building Requirements

by Tony Helland

HB 1029, proposed by the South Dakota Bureau of Administration, seeks to double the minimum thresholds for high-performance building requirements for state-owned buildings. This bill also seeks to remove secondary and tertiary rating systems for energy efficient buildings. These revisions will alter a 2008 bill that was signed into law (SB 188) and received great praise.

First of all, what is a high performance building? Classifying a building as such means that it is: energy efficient, durable, productive, and reduces its environmental impact. Currently, the state requires new and renovated state-owned buildings with a space of 5,000 square feet or more or a construction cost of at least $500,000 be certified high performance. These minimum thresholds were accepted and passed into law in a number of states. Under the present law, any such building must be certified by either the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system, the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating system, or any comparable numeric rating system for sustainable buildings recognized by the American Standards Institute.

The bill currently before the legislature, HB 1029, seeks to double the minimum cost requirement for certification for both new construction and renovations to $1,000,000 as well as double the minimum square footage to 10,000 square feet. This bill will also require that these state-owned buildings be only LEED certified; doing away with the need for the Green Globes rating system as well as other numeric rating systems.

(a) A a silver standard rating under the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system in effect as of July 1, 2009, or earlier if the building was registered or certified under a previous LEED rating system version;

(b) A two globe rating under the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating system as of January 1, 2008; or

(c) A comparable numeric rating under a sustainable building certification

So what’s the big deal? The changes this bill seeks will not effect a majority of construction projects for state-owned buildings. Most proposed construction or renovation projects for the state are well over the 10,000 square foot threshold. But what about those smaller construction projects? I feel that the state has benefited in a couple of ways due to the current requirements (5,000 sq.ft./$500,000). Notably, the state administration can be an efficiency role model while securing their claim as the largest investor in LEED-certified building projects. The state can also benefit from the energy savings through efficiently run buildings, no matter the size. In such an environmentally sensitive time, it makes no sense that the state would ease the standards for energy efficiency – on itself, no less. Every effort, no matter the size, makes an impact, and energy efficiency is just as much a part of securing our climate future as other endeavors with more sex appeal.

So what will be lost because of HB 1029’s revisions? Let’s look at a couple buildings under 10,000 square feet that have benefited by being built efficiently and LEED certified. First there is the Custer State Park visitor center. The visitor’s center is 9,027 sq.ft. and was registered less than a month ago for LEED certification. Being that the building is under 10,000 feet it would not have been required to be high performance certified under HB 1029’s revisions. Next, there is the public safety building in Fort Pierre operated by the Game Fish and Parks Department. This 8,130 square foot building was awarded silver certification under LEED in 2011 because of it’s design, site development, and responsible materials selection. Unfortunately, this building would also not have required it’s LEED certification under HB 1029.

There is really no reason I can see to increase these minimum requirements. The 2008 law has a number of waivers in place in order to exempt construction project where high performance certification would be inappropriate. These waivers include a building that has a minimal human presence, if a renovation results in noncompliance with historic preservation standards, if the renovation is less than half of the building, or if the cost associated with achieving certification can not be recouped through operational savings in the following 15 years.

I am curious to see what arguments, if any, will be brought up. This bill is currently in the House Committee on State Affairs.



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