Green Buildings


In the U.S., buildings account for over 70% of total electricity consumed and contribute approximately 40% of carbon dioxide emissions. These percentages will continue to rise with increased growth and development unless actions are taken to incorporate energy-saving green building codes and policies into plans for new construction and retrofits of existing buildings. Through proactive policies and design solutions green buildings can not only reduce total emissions and energy use but can also create jobs, help to transition cities to a greener economy, and enhance community livability and quality of life.


Creating Green Affordable Housing (2009)

By capitalizing on funding for green affordable housing practices, city officials can incorporate sustainable building design into public housing developments, resulting in lower energy bills for residents, a reduction in pollution and landfill waste, and improved occupant health, comfort and productivity.  This guide provides strategies and action steps for planning, financing and building affordable, sustainable housing, and highlights the experiences of nine cities.

Global Models in Sustainable Energy (2007)

City and town governments are significant consumers of energy and producers of greenhouse gases. Programs with the longest track record for success often come from outside the United States, and this resource offers examples of sustainable energy programs being carried out in cities across the globe.

Greenroofs (2006)

The use of sustainable building practices can alleviate negative impacts from urbanization including urban heat islands, air pollution, stormwater runoff and groundwater contamination.  This guide discusses the tangible benefits of greenroofs, as well as city policies and practices that can promote their implementation, and highlights examples of successful greenroof programs.

Past Events and Webinars

The Following workshop was held at The Green Cities Conference, one of four concurrent conferences at the Congress of Cities and Exposition held in Phoenix, November 9-12, 2011. 

Institutionalizing Sustainability: Building and Broadening Support Throughout City Operations

Incorporating sustainability principles and concepts throughout city operations is one of the most effective ways to build, strengthen and sustain sustainability. As resources to support local efforts dwindle, cities at various stages of sustainability efforts are finding themselves "making the case" to continue efforts in a funding constrained world. In this session city leaders and staff will discuss strategies they have used to embed sustainability concepts, programs, and policies across city departments to maximize impacts and create an enduring culture of sustainability. Come learn about approaches that others have used to gain support for, diffuse principles and build a culture of sustainability within internal operations.

Roy Buol, Mayor, City of Dubuque, Iowa
Cindy Circo, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Kansas City, Missouri
Haris Alibasic, Director of the Office of Energy and Sustainability, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan
John E. Baker, Policy and Program Development Administrator, Department of Environmental Policy and Energy Resources, City of Tallahassee, Florida

Local governments leveraging LEED for Neighborhood Development

(Webex presentation with audio; also available in pdf)

Efficient land use and community design principles are critical components of building strong neighborhoods and sustainable cities. This joint webinar by NLC and U.S. Green Building Council provides an introduction to LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) a new rating system that looks beyond the single building footprint and focuses on improvements at the neighborhood scale. Designed for sustainability staff, planners and economic developers, this webinar will demonstrate how LEED-ND can be integrated within local plans and regulations to support community sustainable development goals. For more information about LEED-ND, created specifically for a local government audience please visit or check out the Local Government Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development.

Speakers include:

  • Eliot Allen, Principal, Criterion Planners Inc.
  • Kristin Parineh, Sustainability Planner from the City of Palo Alto, CA.

Presentation from 2010 Congress of Cities: Green Schools

Workshop from 2010 Congress of Cities featuring representatives from the U.S. Green Building Council, American Institute of Architects, and local elected officials discussing the benefits and opportunities in incorporating green building and design principles within schools.

Nation's Cities Weekly Articles

More Cities Push for Building Energy Transparency (August 22, 2011)

Buildings account for roughly 70 percent of U.S. electricity usage and nearly 40 percent of total carbon emissions, reducing the amount of energy used by buildings is crucial to the hope of making cities more sustainable, and as the nation strives to cut energy use in cities, skilled green jobs will be added to local economies.

The 30 Percent Solution 2012 (July 7, 2010)

Guest author Bill Fay of the Energy Efficiency Codes Coalition (EECC) explains the importance of building codes for local governments and details on how cities can participate in the International Code Council final action hearings.

New Energy Code Will Result in Increased Energy Efficiency for Residential and Commercial Buildings (November 8, 2010)

Summary of the historic building code proposal voted on during the International Code Council hearings in October 2010. Outcomes are expected to result in a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency and conservation over the 2006 code.


Green Building Finance Strategies

Factsheet developed by the Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) on the benefits of and finance strategies to support green building practices within new and existing development. Contains helpful resources and examples of local, state, and national initiatives.

Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments (2010)

Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist local governments identify and remove barriers to sustainable design and green building within their permitting process. This Toolkit addresses the codes/ordinances that would affect the design, construction, renovation, and operation and maintenance of a building and its immediate site.

A joint project of the Institute for Market Transformation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is an online library of building energy performance rating and disclosure resources, including information on policies, programs, impact analyses, and rating systems and tools. This first-of-its-kind project was launched in the fall of 2010 to facilitate the sharing of global intelligence and best practices.

ENERGY STAR for Local Government

Partnering with ENERGY STAR is a commitment to your taxpayers as well as the environment. Local and state governments, as well as federal agencies, that partner with EPA and take the ENERGY STAR Challenge demonstrate their commitment to taxpayers as well as the environment.

Roadmap to Green Government Buildings

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, this guide has been developed for government professionals implementing green building programs and initiatives. It highlights key issues and references dozens of peer-developed resources created by government green building experts across the country.

City Examples

Public Policies Adopting or Referencing LEED

Over 350 local government ordinances, policies, and incentives promoting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards are available in this searchable collection. 


American Institute of Architects

A professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners. AIA delivers tools and resources to promote sustainability through green buildings at the local, state, and federal level.

U.S. Green Building Council

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501 c3 non-profit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.