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San Francisco weighs green-building law

The city may pass the most far-reaching ordinance in the US in March. It would require most new commercial and residential high-rises to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

'Green' steel: A worker crossed steel flooring the CityCenter site in Las Vegas on Dec. 5, 2007. Nevada requires LEED certificication for state-funded buildings.

Andy nelson – staff

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A proposed green building ordinance in San Francisco would transform the construction industry across northern California, impacting everything from city paint shops and local subcontractors to suburban neighborhoods resistant to sand pits and gravel quarries.

If passed in March, the ordinance would require most new commercial and residential high-rises to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Under LEED, developers must earn credits from a checklist of building practices that reduce the project's carbon footprint.

A number of cities and states, such as New Mexico and Washington, have adopted LEED for public buildings, but San Francisco would mandate it for the private sector as well. San Francisco officials say they want to get tough because the operation and construction of buildings account for half the city's CO2 footprint. If passed, the ordinance would be the most far-reaching in the US.

If it kicks off a national trend, it could realign the contours of the trillion-dollar construction industry. "The credits are absolutely driving the marketplace," says Marilyn Miller Farmer, a LEED architect in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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