Second 'green building' Rating System Discussed

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Assembly leaders were lukewarm Friday to a plan to add a second "green building" rating system to Nevada law, and potentially allow more properties - including casinos with indoor smoking - to get tax breaks allowed by the 2005 Legislature.

The Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee heard AB295, which
would add a standard called Green Globes to the 2005 law that allows for a 50 percent property tax reduction for up to 10 years for green buildings.

The Green Globes standards are looser for wood and vinyl products than those set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the green building standard that's currently recognized.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said her decision
would be determined by the measure's fiscal impact.

"In our efforts to continue to encourage energy conservationm and the correct building standards, we also have to make sure any benefits the state gives is commensurate with the gain," Buckley said.

"When we abate property taxes, that affects how much money our
schools get. ... We have other legitimate issues to balance,"
Buckley said.

Assembly Majority Leader John Ocegeura added that "the costs to
the taxpayers may exceed the benefits on this one."

Proponents of the change included a lumber industry advocate, a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council, and a carpenters union
representative, who all said the law should allow for competition among green building certification systems.

An environmental scientist from the University of Nevada, Reno, opposed the bill, and defended LEED.

"Green Globes is formalizing industry practice right now. It's not a step forward. It's not an advancement. When LEED first came out, LEED pushed the envelope," said John Sagebiel, who designed and built his own zero-net energy home. He also certifies buildings for LEED.

James Sala of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters said LEED's standard for sustainable wood products is so restrictive that it often forces builders to use other materials, such as steel or concrete, the mining of which entails its own environmental impacts.

Ken Dunham, executive director of the Lumber Association of California and Nevada, said about 99 percent of forests in the West meet Green Globes' standard, while only 5 percent meet LEED's.

"LEED doesn't like to see tree farms. They don't like to view trees as a commodity. Well, they are," Dunham said.

The measure was first put advanced by Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson
City, who said he did it on request of lobbyist Terry Graves of the
American Chemistry Council.

Graves said in a recent interview that LEED's exclusion of smoking from its certification was an issue for casinos.

"The big difference in Green Globes and LEED is that LEED gets into social engineering like second-hand tobacco smoke. It's a major issue for the casinos," Graves said.

Green Globes' standards board has not yet decided whether to allow smoking, according to director of outreach Mark Rossolo.

Michelle Moore, a LEED representative, has said that green building also is about improving indoor air quality. LEED is looking into whether builders can cordon off smoking areas, allowing the rest of a building to be certified. She said LEED representatives are talking to developers in Nevada who want to provide indoor smoking for their patrons.

In 2005, the Legislature approved a 50 percent property tax reduction for up to 10 years to those who meet green building standards. The measure also required that any public buildings financed by the state meet the standards.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)