Best Practice

Optional Best Practice for Step 3 Recognition

Category A cities: implement this best practice by completing action 1 or 2 and action 3, 4 or 5.

Category B and C cities: implement this best practice by completing any one action.


Optional Metric for Step 4 Recognition

Metric # 2: Green Buildings


New buildings - whether public or private, and including both the building and the building site - present an opportunity to shape the face of a city and to "cement in" reduced operating costs and other benefits beyond what results from conformance with the State Building Code. By 2035 roughly one-third of the U.S. building stock will be either renovated or new. Cities can take actions to assure that this new building stock is higher-performing.

Studies in Minnesota and nationwide have shown that higher-performing green buildings deliver numerous benefits -- to the building owner, the building tenant, to the community, and to society. Benefits include capital cost savings (in some cases), reduced operating costs, higher resale value, increased occupant health and productivity, heat island mitigation (through building and site design), and decreased energy, water and materials use. City and private investments in buildings can be maximized by incentivizing the use of green building frameworks, which include codes, standards, rating systems with certification, and guidelines with verification.

Greenstep Advisor

Melissa Wenzel light skin, short dark brown hair, brown eyes, large smile. Wearing a blue shirt with bicycle images printed and a purple sweater.

Melissa Wenzel, Built Environment Sustainability Administrator, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 651/757-2251,

Connection to State Policy

  • As a condition of funding to cities, Minnesota Housing requires that new construction projects meet Green Communities Criteria for which technical assistance is available from Minnesota Green Communities.
  • All building projects (new buildings and major renovations) funded with state bond money are required to follow the state's B3 Guidelines, which incorporate the Sustainable Building 2030 standards requiring that buildings be designed to reduce use of fossil fuel energy 60% by 2010, 70% by 2015, 80% by 2020 and 90% by 2025.
  • Public buildings in design are able to access capital for energy efficiency upgrades by utilizing the state's Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP).
  • New state plumbing code rules taking effect in January 2016 provide for reuse of treated rainwater within buildings for toilet flushing, vehicle washing, industrial processes, water features, cooling tower makeup and similar uses.


Major Benefit

  • 40 private and public projects costing $525,710,746 and covering 2,744,746 sq. feet have been built in the period 2010-2016 following the City of Saint Paul's Sustainable Building Policy. The policy covers all new and major renovation building projects within the city limits that receive more than $200,000 of public funds. These financially and environmentally high-performing buildings are designed to meet, in addition to other standards: (1) the B3 Sustainable Building 2030 energy targets (currently 70% better than an average building); (2) 60-80% stormwater pollutant reductions and pre-settlement rainwater infiltration rates; (3) 75% diversion of construction waste from landfilling. Saint Paul's Policy was developed as a model for other cities with the support of an Environmental Assistance Grant from the MPCA.
  • See sustainable building design & performance metrics (energy & water use, GHGs, stormwater, construction recycling) for 150 (and growing) Minnesota public and private buildings that follow Minnesota's B3 Guidelines and the SB 2030 Energy Standard. Also see several reports and case studies highlighting the benefits and costs of building green and Inclusionary Housing in the United States: Prevalence, Impact, and Practices (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy: 2017).
  • According to Greening America's Schools: Costs and Benefits (2006), green schools:
    • Cost about 2% more than conventional schools to build: about $3 per square foot more.
    • Provide financial benefits over the lifetime of the school that are 20 times as large as additional costs.
    • Save enough money annually to pay for an additional full-time teacher.
    • Use 30-50% less energy and 30% less water.
    • Use the school building itself as an interactive teaching tool and improve student learning.
  • The impact that site and building development has on total U.S. greenhouse emissions ranges from 44 - 62%, based on estimates by the University of MN Center for Sustainable Building Research:
    • Building operating energy: 30-43%
    • Employee travel: 10-13%
    • Building materials: 3-5%
    • Building waste, water and wastewater treatment, soils/site vegetation: 5%
  • In households, greywater can account for 60% of total wastewater volume and must be paid for by purchasing water and then by paying to dispose of it.
  • The energy employees typically use to travel to and from an average office building during a given time period - its transportation energy intensity - can be a third to twice more than the energy used to run the building during the same time period. Hence attention to the "green" footprint of a new building must consider an optimal location that shortens commutes and allows options to solo commuting by auto.