Southwest Green Building Initiatives

Many communities in the Southwest have adopted mandatory or voluntary green building requirements for new residential construction.  Several others are actively developing programs.  SWEEP will update this list regularly.

Updated: April 2008

Adopted Programs

Programs Under Development

Planning for Future Programs in Progress

Adopted Programs


The City of Albuquerque's "High Performance Building Ordinance", signed by Mayor Chavez on September 25, 2007, establishes building design and construction code requirements that are designed to minimize the environmental impacts of residential and commercial buildings in Albuquerque by using energy, water and materials more efficiently. The requirements apply to new construction and remodeling or repairs to equipment and systems in existing buildings. The code will become effective December 1, 2009.

The energy efficiency features of the ordinance include enhanced building insulation and sealing requirements; “cool roof” requirements; a mandate for light fixtures in all residential buildings to be ENERGY STAR-rated, high-efficiency fluorescent tubes, or CFLs; and a that clothes washers, freezers, refrigerators, and dishwashers must be ENERGY STAR certified.

The Ordinance was developed by the Albuquerque City Council and the Mayor's Green Ribbon Task Force. The City will periodically review and update the code to reflect advancements in technology, construction standards, and public policy. The City will also offer incentives for high-performance, beyond-code buildings, and a financial assistance program to help elderly and low-income homeowners comply with the Ordinance.

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Beginning February 2003, all new building must adhere to the Efficient Building Program. Each project must document it has reached a minimum number of points for using efficient, recycled and renewable technologies and materials along with resource efficient practices.

The program is designed to educate the public and the building trades about utilizing resources more efficiently. Flexibility is built into the program to accommodate a wide range of alternatives to create better buildings. The program addresses the reduction of construction waste, promoting recycled and renewable resources, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, renewable energy, water conservation, as well as efficient building techniques. The program is a rating system with the number of points required based on the size and type of the project.

The program includes checklists and a Resource Guide to provide program details and assist in finding "green" suppliers.

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The Boulder City Council adopted the "Green Points and Green Building Program" on November 13, 2007, and it went into effect on February 1, 2008. It consists of optional and mandatory requirements related to design, construction, operations, recycling, and deconstruction and intended to conserve energy, water and other natural resources.

The ordinance consists of a rating system for the environmental performance of residential construction and operational practices, and provides guidelines for documentation that demonstrates compliance. Cost-effective and sustainable residential building methods are encouraged to conserve fossil fuels and water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, recycle construction materials, reduce solid waste and improve indoor air quality.

Mandatory green building requirements include homes to be 30-75% more efficient than the 2006 IECC code (depending on square footage), energy performance is determined through a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating or an energy audit, 50% or more of the light fixtures to be energy efficient lighting, a furnace replacement should be a direct vent unto with a minimum 90% AFUE, and at least 50% of the construction waste is recycled.

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The Sustainable Economic Development Initiative (SEDI) fosters economic opportunities in Coconino County, Arizona, that promote social equity, economic prosperity, and ecological health. SEDI focuses on six types of development where there are significant opportunities for sustainability, including green materials and products.

The Coconino County Sustainable Building Program (CCSBP) was developed as a comprehensive initiative designed to encourage sustainable and energy efficient building practices throughout northern Arizona. SEDI is working with CCSBP to research and synthesize information on available resources, rebates, and incentives for green building.

CCSBP offers a variety of services to help those interested in pursuing sustainable building practices, including site planning, energy and water use, and selection of green building materials and products.

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On September 27, 2006, Eagle County's ECOBuild regulations were adopted with the intent of encouraging cost-effective sustainable building methods to create durable, energy efficient structures that conserve natural resources, promote the efficient use of building materials, and improve indoor air quality. ECOBuild applies to all new residential single family, duplex and townhomes as well as additions/reconstruction over 50% of the existing floor area. Exterior energy uses, such as snowmelt, spas and pools, may also apply.

All building permit applications need to include the ECOBuild Checklist that is completed during the inspection process and noted with the point value assigned. The minimum total points is 40 for homes up to 2,000 square feet, increasing by 5 points for every 1,000 square feet, up to 100 points for homes with over 8,000 square feet. A fee can be paid in lieu of meeting the required points, or a rebate will be granted for any points over the requirements (based on square footage).

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In September 2006, the Fort Collins City Council voted to raise the bar on energy efficiency and environmental design by adopting a resolution stating all new construction of city-owned buildings of 5,000 square feet or more will achieve LEED Gold certification. Existing city-owned buildings should use the LEED standard as a guide for sustainable operation and maintenance, but no specific requirements are established.

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In the special session of June 2005, Nevada passed Assembly Bill 3, which included provisions for a partial abatement of property taxes for property that has a building or structure that meets or exceeds the United States Green Building Council's LEED* Silver rating system. The partial abatement was for a duration of not more than 10 years and was not to exceed 50% of the property taxes due.  
The property tax abatement was highly successful in encouraging green building. As of June 2007, nearly 63 million square feet of development space in Nevada had applied for LEED certification. Faced with a tight budget and approximately $900 million in lost tax revenue, the Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 621 in June 2007, which reduces the amount of the property tax abatement.  
In addition to reducing the percentage of property tax allowable under the tax abatement, AB 621 also required the Director of the Office of Energy to adopt a green building rating system to be used for the purposes of this property tax abatement. The Director, through Adopted Regulation R116-07, selected the LEED system, but with specific requirements for energy conservation. To qualify for the tax abatement, LEED Silver buildings must earn at least three points for energy conservation, LEED Gold and LEED Platinum buildings must earn at least five and eight energy conservation points respectively.  
Buildings which earn a Silver rating can receive a 25% property tax abatement, Gold can receive a 30% abatement, and 35% can be awarded to Platinum certificates. Once a project has its letter of verification from the Director of the Office of Energy, indicating that the building has earned a Silver or higher certificate, the Department of Taxation, the County Assessor, the County Treasurer, and the Commission on Economic Development will be notified. The property tax abatement cannot be applied to any taxes imposed for public education, or any buildings that receive funding from any governmental entity in Nevada for the acquisition, design or construction of the building.

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In 2005 Mayor Anderson issued an Executive Order to require that all new and renovated public buildings be certified in the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to "at least the Silver level." The Executive Order applies to all public buildings that are owned and operated by Salt Lake City Corporation.

LEED certification requires that environmental and energy-efficient design be incorporated into new buildings or major renovations of existing buildings. These buildings are also more efficient than conventional structures in terms of reduced maintenance and operating costs.

Twenty-seven other cities have adopted LEED standards for city-owned buildings, including Chicago, Kansas City, Austin, and San Francisco.

In November 2006, the Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously to endorse the high performance building initiative and added that all buildings receiving city funds, over 10,000 sq. ft of occupied space, be at least LEED Certified. This is the first step in creating highly efficient green urban culture.

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In 1998, Scottsdale established the state's first Green Building Program to encourage environmentally responsible building by incorporating healthy, resource and energy efficient materials and methods in the design and construction of homes. This voluntary program is open to builders in the Scottsdale area, and rates building projects on six environmental impacts areas: (1) site use, (2) energy, (3) indoor air quality, (4) building materials, (5) solid waste, and (6) water. Educational programs for the public and builders are an integral part of the program.

The energy features in the program are intended to reap energy savings through proper utilization of windows, lighting, mechanical systems, and active/passive solar systems. Energy efficiency measures include passive solar design strategies, use of well insulated building envelope with internal thermal mass, install high-performance low-e windows, use external shading devices, seal and insulate ducts, and energy-efficient heating & cooling equipment, lighting and appliances.

On March 22, 2005, the city council adopted a Resolution to establish the Green Building LEED Gold Policy for new city and remodels. The first in the nation, this policy requires all new, occupied city buildings of any size to be designed, contracted and built to achieve Gold certification by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

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Telluride adopted an ordinance requiring all residential new construction, additions and remodels to comply with green building regulations. The code is based on a point system and the required amount of points will depend on the size and type of the construction project. Generally, the code is broken down into four categories: (1) energy efficiency, (2) indoor air quality, (3) materials, and (4) resource conservation. Points can be accrued based on a hundred different measures in the categories. Currently, the code does not apply to commercial construction.

The code is designed into two templates for residential construction. The first outlines requirements for residential construction with density of a triplex or less (based on square footage), and the second applies to multi-residential construction with a density greater than a triplex. Checklists are provided based on the two requirements.

A Green Building Resource Guide is provided that includes background information on the rationale for Telluride's Green Building Code, and offers local and regional resources to obtain green building products and services. 

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In April 1998, Tucson and Pima County Metropolitan Energy Commission jointly developed the Sustainable Energy Standard (SES), a building energy code that is 50 percent more efficient than the 1995 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). It was updated to meet the 2003 IECC standards. Originally designed to be the minimum energy performance requirement for the Community of Civano, the City of Tucson adopted it for all city-owned buildings (new or renovated).

The Sustainable Energy Standard provides technical guidelines allowing other developments, (new and retrofit) to incorporate Civano performance guidelines for energy conservation, water use and waste into more general building projects.

To date, the City has spent roughly $3.9 million on energy efficiency improvements in City buildings and meeting SES for new construction will increase energy efficiency by 50% over the previously adopted standard.

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The City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County have partnered together to create a Green Building Program with the help of a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). City and County staff have selected a consulting team to assist in developing the program. Consultants include Architectural Energy Corporation and What's Working Inc, which both have experience developing and implementing green building program in Colorado and across the country.

In March 2008, the team completed a program checklist along with supporting details and point allocations. The checklist should be available for public comment by early April.

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Late in 2006, the Jackson Mayor was the first in the State of Wyoming to sign the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, which is a document that outlines goals and initiatives based on the Kyoto Protocol. This action set in motion many green building initiatives. In February 2007, the Town and County signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish an agreement to energy efficiency and environmental work and jointly formed the volunteer Energy Efficiency Advisory Board, tasked with developing an environmental strategy.

At the end of 2007, the City Council approved a motion to implement a High Performance/ Sustainable Housing Pilot Program. The program is based on the work of Building Departments in the Town of Jackson and Teton County, who is working with volunteer architects and other building experts in developing a LEED-based "check list." The focus is to reward people as they implement energy-efficient standards in their buildings projects. The process will encourage public participation, test the merits of checklist for residential building, and then be sent to City Council for approval.

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For the past two years, the Efficient Building Working Group, consisting on community leaders and stakeholders, has been creating a workable Sustainable Building Code for Summit County.

In January 2008, the group unveiled a draft of the Summit Sustainable Building Program that seeks to encourage construction of efficient and healthy buildings. High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit leading the countywide push for sustainability in the building sector, also developed a Resource Guide to provide detail explanations of the code and its components.

The Summit Sustainable Building Program addresses all residential construction and additions. The program is a points-based system allocated in the following three sections:

  • Mandatory Measures must be met by all buildings, regardless of size or design. They include baseline insulation values, basic efficiency standards for doors and windows, and baseline efficiency ratings of heating equipment.
  • Secondary Measures must be met by these requirements or be off-set by equal measures found in the Sustainable Building Menu. The Secondary Measures include a baseline home size of 3,000 square feet of conditioned space for single family homes and 1,200 square feet for multi-family units. Buildings over the baseline size must acquire additional points from the Sustainable Building Menu.
  • The Sustainable Building Menu includes a large variety of products and practices with associated point values. The menu will be dynamic as it responds to changes in local markets, new technologies, and new information.

All requirements of this code will be considered met if the owner/builder achieves Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification or another approved certification program. The High Country Conservation Center will serve as a central library and resource center for the Sustainable Building Program.

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The following communities have initiated plans for developing a future green building program for their community. 


In 2007, the City of Chandler began developing a Chandler Green Building Program following the positive results from a green building survey administered in 2006. Through staff research and work of a Green Building Task Force, a draft of the Chandler Green Building Program was presented at the end of 2007. A public forum, held November 15, 2007, featured presentations by a USGBC representative who discussed the LEED certification system and city staff who provided updates on developing the green building program.

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In 2007, the Golden City Council made sustainability its top priority. Working groups, consisting of community stakeholders and citizens, were organized to establish and implement sustainability goals. Recommendations were proposed to the city council, which adopted the goals with Resolution No. 1793 on August 23, 2007. Included among the goals is building efficiency with staff review of current city building codes, fees, HOA restrictions and zoning regulations, recommend changes to these regulations to promote green building practices, and adopt the USGBC LEED Silver standards for all new and remodeled commercial buildings.

One of the seven Sustainable Community Working Group, includes the Building Working Group that is focused on improving energy efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of new and existing buildings in Golden. Goals include (1) ensuring that within 10 years, 90% of all new buildings constructed in Golden each year are built to green building standards, (2) ensuring that within 10 years, 50% of all remodels in Golden each year are built to green building standards, and (3) revising Golden's land use code to reflect the best practices in sustainability once every 5 years.

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Included in their comprehensive plan, the city of Henderson encourages developers and homebuilders to utilize green buildings techniques, including LEED standards. Participation is currently voluntary and the policy includes integrating the design and construction of the new home or building into the natural desert environment and preserve water by minimizing soil erosion and run-off.

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For any new developments or construction, the City of Park City currently encourages the use of green building and sustainability practices. No formal standards are currently mandatory. However, the city is developing a strategic plan to include energy efficiency standards for municipal buildings, an inventory of carbon emissions from city operations and exploration of mandatory green buildings initiatives. The strategic plan should be complete in 2008.

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