Why isn't green construction required by law?

By: Brian Boone

Incentives for Green Construction

How can lawmakers encourage green building?
How can lawmakers encourage green building?
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Local governments are the biggest landholders around, and many jurisdictions are setting the example for green construction with environmentally sound public buildings. The USGBC keeps statistics on LEED projects at different levels of government. As of February 2012, California and Texas lead the country in LEED projects, with 1,671 and 698 certifications, respectively. In cities, New York City has 229 LEED-certified works, while Washington, D.C., is in second place with 233 -- and since that city is the seat of the federal government, the government is vividly setting an example with green construction [source: United States Green Building Council].

Further, hundreds of individual tax credits are available throughout the U.S. The Department of Energy maintains a list of all energy-related tax breaks available state-by-state, including recycling appliances, buying Energy Star-certified appliances, and installing solar panels or water-recycling systems [source: Department of Energy].


Governments at various levels also offer tax breaks for green builders or for people or organizations that buy green buildings. In 2012, the Michigan legislature proposed a Bill (4286) that would introduce some of the most sweeping green tax credit laws in the nation: New green (or refurbished-to-be-green) homes and commercial buildings with a LEED certification would generate a rebate of $50,000 or 50 percent of construction costs (whichever was less). The bill calls for more, separate tax credits on buildings that use green generators or renewable energy options [source: Wilmot].

So why isn't everybody on board with this? If this is all so beneficial for both the environment and the economy, then why isn't green construction the only construction? Read on.