City of Reno taking ‘LEED’ in green building initiatives |

City of Reno taking ‘LEED’ in green building initiatives

Duane Johnson
The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus (seen here on April 12) opened in early 2016. The university has been utilizing green building technology in their construction projects.
Duane Johnson / NNBW

By the numbers

Below are some of the results of the Better Buildings Challenge, of which Reno is part, since 2011. The following are nationwide statistics:

• Energy use reduced by 240 trillion BTUs

• Water use reduced by 4 billion gallons

• $1.9 billion in cost savings

• 15 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided

• 37 financial partners have committed $7 billion for efficiency projects

Source: U.S. Department of Energy;

RENO, Nev. — Lynne Barker believes Reno has a tremendous opportunity to move forward in the green building movement.

Barker, sustainability manager for the City of Reno, says green building is key for sustainability and as an economic driver for the Truckee Meadows region.

She said the city must continue to grow its green building initiatives, even though according to statistics from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Nevada ranked in the top 10 states for LEED projects measured in square-footage per capital in the calendar year. The state also was ranked three out of the five years the study was conducted.

“Green building is becoming the standard for construction in the United States,” Barker said. “… This has been the case in Southern Nevada, but not as much in Northern Nevada.”

For instance, only 38 of 411 statewide projects to go through the certification process for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) were located in the Truckee Meadows, according to a USGBC’s November 2016 report.

Despite Northern Nevada’s shortcomings, Barker did laud notable projects in the region, including several at the University of Nevada, Reno campus for having LEED-level certification.

Adapting with climate change

In a July 2016 report conducted by Climate Central and the Weather Channel, Reno was named as the fastest warming city in the United States, with average temperatures rising 1.39 degrees per decade in the last 50 years. The report also said Reno was emitting an average total of 11 metric tons of pollutants per years.

In Reno, all buildings account for 65 percent of climate pollution, with commercial and industrial buildings contributing 38 percent, and residential buildings at 27 percent, the report said.

On the other hand, Reno officials have taken action to push green building initiatives.

Reno recently pushed to be one of 20 cities nationwide (some of which include Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Jose, among others) to participate in the City Energy Project, a joint venture between Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation.

The project will work with each city to tailor a set of policies for innovation, and offer practical solutions to improve energy efficiency. Other goals are to cut energy waste and reduce pollution.

To go along with its inclusion in the City Energy Project, Reno also partnered with the Commercial Green Building & Energy Efficiency Task Force to develop and analyze investments in energy efficiency and green building.

Barker said the city of Reno and the efficiency task force are expected to release details in the coming weeks.

“Right now the focus is about educating those in the industry such as contractors, developers, property managers, to name a few,” Barker said. “Then we’ll be working with the task force on and discussing green building discussions and release recommendations on a formal policy at a later date.”

Creating quality jobs

The task force also is hosting monthly workshops to educate community leaders, as well as officials in the construction and property management sectors, along with developing an awards program to honor leaders and those in the building industry for implementing green building.

An example of the available programs, Barker noted, is the state of Nevada is offering tax abatements for non-residential and multifamily residential green buildings or existing buildings that are renovated to meet green building standards. The abatements are administered through the Governor’s Office of Energy.

Another part of Reno green building initiatives was to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, a voluntary leadership program launched in 2011 designed to improve buildings energy efficiency across the United States.

Reno is one of 50 cities nationwide to participate in the program. For its part, the city introduced ReEnergize Reno project. The goal is to improve efficiency in water energy and waste management in buildings 20 percent by 2025.

Barker indicated green building not only makes Reno a healthier and environmentally sustainable state, it also brings about positive economic impacts.

“Building green also creates quality jobs,” Barker said. “A 2009 report by the USGBC/Booz Allen Hamilton found that, despite a challenging economic outlook at the time, green building will support nearly 8 million jobs in the U.S. economy and contribute $554 billion to U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2009 and 2013.”