Model Green Building Ordinance

windows with a reflection of blue sky and green treesThe model municipal green building ordinance presented below is the product of an empirical analysis of common practices in existing municipal green building regulation and research on possible legal impediments. Its provisions are designed to achieve effective yet feasible improvements in building practices and are drawn, in large measure, from existing ordinances. A draft version of the ordinance and a solicitation for comments were released on June 1, 2010. We received comments from a wide variety of individuals and institutions with substantial experience and knowledge in the areas of green buildings, municipal law, and statutory construction. This completed version of the ordinance includes many changes that reflect the comments received.

The model ordinance regulates new construction and major modifications of municipal buildings, commercial buildings, and residential buildings by mandating that these buildings be constructed to a specific green building standard. Under these mandates, new buildings and major modifications will more efficiently use resources and be built with more sustainable materials and practices than conventional buildings. Unlike other model ordinances that detail technical specifications, this ordinance presents a framework for the implementation of existing technical standards and a streamlined procedure for their compliance and enforcement. The model ordinance accommodates the rapidly developing field of substantive green building standards by allowing for the adoption of new standards within the ordinance’s framework.

The commentary on the ordinance clarifies areas of potential ambiguity and discusses the benefits and drawbacks of optional add-ons. Legal issues, including preemption, nondelegation, and antitrust, are discussed in a separate document available below.

Download the model ordinance without commentary (PDF)

Download the model ordinance with commentary (PDF)

Download the legal analysis to accompany the model ordinance (PDF)

SEQRA forms to accompany model ordinance: SEQRA form 1 (PDF); SEQRA form 2 (PDF)

See summary of revisions (PDF) for the most recent version of the ordinance.

See redline comparison (PDF) of previous version to current version.

Related Publications and Press Coverage

The Town of New Castle, New York adopted a comprehensive green building law that is based on the Sabin Center’s model ordinance.  The New Castle Town Board voted unanimously to adopt the law on December 13, 2011.  Download the adopted law.

Faculty Director Michael Gerrard has also written about the ordinance in the Municipal Lawyer Newsletter and The New York Environmental Lawyer.