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San Francisco weighs green-building law

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Take materials: There's been an explosion of new products including recycled carpet and insulation made from old blue jeans. The number of such products has jumped tenfold over the past decade, says Ms. Farmer, who tracks them at greenbuildingpages.com. "New products are coming out all the time," she says.

Other LEED credits stipulate that certain percentages of materials originate from within 500 miles of the site. That could make waves down at the docks, where ships are hauling in rocks and sand from Canada and cement from China. Local suppliers are short of these ingredients for concrete because Californians resist quarries and sand pits in their backyard.

LEED amplifies an argument made by local miners: Moving cement and rock halfway around the globe creates a lot of greenhouse gases. "Until LEED came along, there weren't credible environmental groups also saying this," says Ben Licari, director of geology and exploration at GraniteRock, a Watsonville, Calif., company that supplies locally sourced concrete. "Now customers come in the door ... specifically looking for green products and locally produced products."

California has been out front in LEED construction, with more than 1,000 buildings now registered with the nonprofit US Green Building Council. Many cities, including San Francisco, now offer incentives to private developers, the most powerful being fast-tracked permitting.

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