"What the USGBC did was to create a design guideline," said NJMC Staff Planner Vanessa K. Irizarry last week. "They are a national non-profit based in DC. They actually define what green building is in the country by creating a common language for people to measure their green building construction. It's a very comprehensive look and analysis of a building."
A memorandum introducing the initiative stated that green building is consistent with the NJMC's founding mandates, "To both protect the delicate balance of nature and provide for orderly development in the Meadowlands."
The NJMC oversees development in the Meadowlands region, including parts of towns like Secaucus and North Bergen.
The green building initiative will focus on two main points: outreach to local developers, and facilitation for builders who wish to follow green building guidelines.
"When a developer comes to us to develop in the Meadowlands, we can provide educational materials," said NJMC spokesperson Chris Gale.
The NJMC will make recommendations based on the Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, designed to create standards for green building. According to the Green Building Council, LEED offers training workshops, professional accreditation, resource support, and third- party certification of building performance.
Advantages for builders
The NJMC outlined four goals for green building: Improving air and water quality; reducing solid waste; reducing operating costs; and minimizing strain on local infrastructure.
The theory of green building is that this can be done through taking advantage of alternative sources of energy and ecologically friendly landscaping.
"It's a very comprehensive look and analysis of a whole building," said Irizarry. "Things like using solar panels [and] providing good parking spaces for alternative fuel and hybrid (gas and electric) cars. There is a huge range of ways you can do this."
LEED also rates what kind of impact landscaping can have on the environment and how parking can affect a company's fleets.
Irizarry said that there are economic as well as environmental impacts associated with green building.
"It reduces operating costs," she said. "If you use energy efficient light bulbs, you reduce your energy bill. If you produce less waste, you reduce the cost of getting rid of it."
The NJMC, having just joined this month, is still learning about what resources are available for builders.
According to Gale, there are economic advantages for builders from various state agencies. Grants are available from state agencies such as the Department of Community Affairs Green Homes Office, the NJ Clean Energy Program, the Smart Start Buildings Energy Star Program, the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network, and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Energy Efficient Mortgages Program.
"As we become more educated, we can serve as a clearinghouse," said Gale. All participation is voluntary.
The proposal by the NJMC to become involved with green building was suggested by NJMC Chairwoman Susan Bass Levin, who is also Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.
"Under the Department of Community Affairs, she has a lot of code enforcement divisions," said Gale. "She told us to look after this, and Vanessa took the lead."
For more information about green building visit www.usgbc.org.