There's a move under way to change the "green" building standards required of any new state buildings, a mandate that falls under an extensive 2005 law now under scrutiny for its large tax breaks.
Representatives of the state Public Works Board say they will meet Thursday with Gov. Jim Gibbons to talk about the required certification system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, managed by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. They expect to produce a white paper on the topic next week.
The PWB representatives say most of LEED's requirements don't provide a payback for taxpayers - a claim disputed by the council, which says its standards provide a public and economic benefit.
"We are discussing an alternative approach. What we came to realize is that the lawmakers were maybe being misinformed or misled as to what the LEED program was and what it would do for this state," said Bruce Nipp, chief of design for the PWB.
The law requires all new state buildings to meet basic LEED standards. Also, two state projects must be built in every two-year budget cycle that meet a higher LEED level. That will cost the state $12 million in the coming biennium.
Nipp and Evan Dale, the board's deputy manager of finance, said three-quarters of LEED's requirements don't have anything to do with energy conservation.
"The rest of the LEED certification, there's no payback, except that you are helping to save the planet," Dale said.
Michelle Moore, vice president of the building council, disputed those claims, saying each part of LEED has a substantial public and economic benefit. Other than energy efficiency, the standard allots points for water efficiency, recycling and waste management, indoor air quality and site design.
Moore said building and construction waste accounts for half of municipal landfills.
"It's not unusual for a green building project to be able to reclaim up to 90 percent of its waste," she said.
When buildings are located near public transportation, those who live or work in them drive less, she added.
LEED's requirement that some materials be purchased within 300 miles of the site also reduces emissions and stimulates the local economy, she said.
Moore said research is showing 40-60 percent less occurrence of respiratory symptoms such as cold, flu and asthma in a green building than in a conventional environment, which leads to enhanced productivity and fewer sick days for workers or schoolchildren.