Since 2003, the number of cities with green building programs has risen from 22 to 92, for an increase of 418%.  This figure, as well as others below, comes as a result of a study commissioned by the AIA.  Their newly published report, Local Leaders in Sustainability, analyzed 661 communities’ best practices, strategies, and trends, and provides recommendations for cities that are looking to implement green building programs.

  • 1 in 7 cities surveyed currently have green building programs
  • Number improves to 1 in 5 by next year with current projections
  • 39% of citizens live in cities with green building programs
  • 36 cities are in an advanced stage of developing a green building program

View the full report: Local Leaders in Sustainability [PDF]

Case study excerpts:

  • Portland offers income tax credit for green building and projects for energy conservation, recycling, renewable energy and cleaner fuels.  The Oregon Dept. of Energy has awarded 13,000 tax credits of 35 percent of eligible project costs.
  • San Francisco established Generation Solar program to amend the code and streamline the process for solar permitting in residential applications.  Program provides assistance with design and installation and has resulted in nearly 600 solar installations city wide.
  • Scottsdale was first city to mandate LEED Gold for municipal buildings.  In 2005 one-third of all new single-family permits adhered to green building standards with 1,123 green single-family and 20 multi-family homes having been completed as of 2007.
  • Chicago has more LEED registered projects than any other U.S. city.  Their Green Roof Program offers $5,000 grants to help with the planning and installation of green roofs, and as of 2006 there were over 250 public and private green projects in place, being designed or under construction, which amounts to approximately 3 million square feet.
  • Austin established the first green building program in the country.  A climate protection plan will have city buildings running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2012 and completely carbon neutral by 2020.
  • Atlanta had the most LEED buildings per capita in the country in 2006.  Their EarthCraft Communities program is a community guideline that emphasizes walkability, environmental site plan development, and an overall integrated planning approach.
  • View a matrix of various cities and their green building programs. 


  • Hire a director of sustainability within the mayor’s or permitting department to coordinate multiple departments to develop the most well rounded program.
  • Train and accredit municipal employees on the rating systems that will be used by the community.
  • Include all professionals in the design and construction industry when developing a green building program to work in a collaborative manner.
  • Maintain consistency in requirements and standards throughout the community.
  • Investigate far-reaching sustainability initiatives including green purchasing programs, hybrid fleets, and streamlining the solar permitting process.
  • Contact local AIA chapters for the insights of architects who serve on their respective Committee on the Environment and who have been involved in developing local green building programs.

The AIA has developed a SustAIAnability 2030 Tool Kit to assist cities that are interested in implementing green building programs in their community, and in early 2008 will be issuing 50to50 –- a range of 50 sustainable design principles that can help achieve a 50% reduction in project fossil fuel consumption. 

Thanks to the depth of information available in this report, straggling cities out there now have all the tools and information to get going in the right direction.