The Ocean State has taken a big step toward embracing sustainable development and landscapes. Building on the state’s eight-year legacy of green public buildings policy, the Rhode Island legislature has passed a bill to expand its coverage to include public lands.
The Senate passed S-0952A/H-5427A, amending the state’s Green Buildings Act, to apply to any “public real property site” in addition to public buildings, and specifying the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) and LEED for Neighborhood Development as applicable rating systems for certification. This move makes Rhode Island the first state in the nation to reference the SITES rating system in public policy.
Since 2010, the state has been applying LEED in its newly constructed state-funded facilities, but starting immediately, state and local governments working on new projects that address the space between buildings through public parks or landscapes will also consider applying SITES and LEED ND to sites adjacent to public facilities. LEED and SITES are complementary and can be used independently or in tandem, earning credits that count toward both rating systems.
SITES is based on the understanding that land is a crucial component of the built environment, and the rating system can be applied to development projects with or without buildings—ranging from national parks to corporate campuses, from streetscapes to homes.
LEED ND incorporates the principles of smart growth, New Urbanism, and green building into a global standard for green neighborhood planning and design. The voluntary leadership standard for neighborhood development helps guide development projects in terms of where they’re located, how they’re designed and how they perform.
By using these rating systems for public projects, Rhode Island is creating healthier, more sustainable and more resilient places for its residents. In addition, the state is also being a good fiscal steward of the public’s funds while signaling to the private market the state’s support for sustainability in the built environment. Green infrastructure and built landscapes protect people and buildings, as well as mitigating the impact of natural disasters.
USGBC thanks the bill sponsors in the House, Rep. Blazejewski, Rep. Edwards IV, Rep. Marshall, Rep. Marszalkowski and Rep. Walsh, as well as the Senate, Sen. DiPalma, Sen. Coyne, Sen. Miller, Sen. Seveney, and Sen. Sosnowski. Additionally, we would like to recognize Kenneth J. Filarski, Chair of USGBC Rhode Island chapter, for his tireless work and persistence in getting this legislation passed.