RI Passes
Amendments to The Green Buildings Act

Rhode Island has a tremendous opportunity in front of us to enhance, build, and grow sustainability. In 2017 the RI Legislature amended The Green Buildings Act, adopting high performance green landscape standards for the property surrounding public buildings. This law amended the state’s existing Green Buildings Act of 2009, RIGL Chapter 37-24. The 2009 law established high performance green building standards for public buildings, public structures, and public real property. The Green Buildings Act was historic when it became law and resulted in measurable “greening” of public buildings. The new amendments are also ground breaking in their own right, ensuring that in the future, Rhode Island’s public buildings will also include sustainable landscapes.

The 2017 amendment added new metrics, LEED for Neighborhood Development and SITES, to the existing green building standards. These new standards look at landscape strategies for reducing water demand, treating storm water runoff, enhancing wildlife habitat, reducing energy consumption, increasing outdoor recreation opportunities, and sequestering carbon for buildings, properties, surrounding neighborhoods, and their communities. The amendment reduces the life cycle costs for these projects, saving time and money for public agencies and therefore the public.

According to a 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study by the U.S. Green Building Council and Booz Allen Hamilton, from 2015-2018, green construction in Rhode Island will account for $2.14 billion in state GDP and support approximately 25,000 jobs.

Green construction in buildings and landscapes is efficient and economical. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that sustainable landscape projects save 15% to 80% of the initial project capital costs compared to traditional site infrastructure. SITES will save the State even more money in operations and maintenance costs over the life cycle of a project. The United States General Services Administration (GSA) has adopted SITES stating that it "allows land-based projects to better protect ecosystems and enhance the mosaic of benefits they continuously provide our communities, such as climate regulation, carbon storage and flood mitigation."

Implementation of the 2017 Amendments

The Green Buildings Act is administered by the Rhode Island Department of Administration (DOA) and is further supported by the Green Buildings Advisory Committee (GBAC). During the next several months, DOA with assistance from the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will select four (4) pilot projects for implementation, with an assessment of costs and benefits.

An initial "next steps" meeting will take place in January with DOA, DEM, the U.S. Green Building Council Rhode Island (USGBC RI), the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition, and the Environmental Council of RI, together with participation by the national U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

We will report back on the projects once they are selected so we can all work together to ensure the maximal success and impact of this important new state program.

Registration is now open for the March 10, 2018 Land & Water Conservation Summit.
There will be two excellent workshops on green infrastructure! Come join Rhode Island’s conservation leaders for a day of networking and workshops.
The Green Infrastructure Coalition is a project of the Environment Council of Rhode Island. We are made up of over forty organizations from around the state that work on projects to create nature based solutions for stormwater issues facing Rhode Island. Our projects and programs are geared towards educating the community on what is being done to address polluted runoff and flooding across the state. Our goal is to advocate for and help create new projects by using natural green infrastructure in Rhode Island.

Kenneth J. Filarski FAIA, AICP, LEED AP BD+C, SITES AP, CFM, SAP+AEER, NCARB is the is the principal FILARSKI/ARCHITECTURE+PLANNING+RESEARCH, an award winning, integrated design and planning, ecology studio and research workshop. Filarski is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Certified Planner, a LEED Accredited Professional, one of the first SITES Accredited Professionals in the world, a Certified Flood Plain Manager, and a nationally Certified Disaster Assistance Trainer and a nationally Certified Disaster Responder. Filarski holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture and Environmental Design from Goddard College. Ken is a founder and the Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council of Rhode Island, and he and his firm are proud members of the RI Green Infrastructure Coalition.

John Berard is the State Director of Rhode Island Clean Water Action. Clean Water Action is a member of the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition.
RI-GIC Website