Tiny little D.C. has more green buildings than most states D.C. certified more green buildings in 2022 than all but three states.
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Tiny little D.C. has more green buildings than most states

One reason D.C. has so many green buildings is the presence of the federal government. Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

The District has long been a leader in terms of green buildings — buildings that are highly efficient and require little energy to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. In 2022, D.C. certified more green building square footage than any state — ten times more, in fact, than the closest competitor.

Buildings are among the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. In the District, which doesn't have a lot of industry or many miles of freeway, buildings are by far the biggest emitter, accounting for nearly three quarters of emissions. So, making buildings greener can have a big impact on cutting Districtwide emissions.

"Washington, D.C. is outpacing the rest of the U.S., in part because of the federal government's presence, but also the commitment to green building at the local level," says Peter Templeton, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, the organization that certifies buildings as being LEED green buildings. The group put out a recent report ranking states based on their green building certifications in 2022.

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D.C. has passed numerous laws to require or incentivize greener construction, including a bill passed last July that mandates that all new buildings be net-zero construction, starting in 2026. That means they will have to produce or procure as much clean energy as they use.

The report ranks the top 10 states for green buildings in 2022. D.C., not being a state, isn't officially ranked, but is clearly in the lead.

D.C. certified 115 green building projects last year, comprising 31,759,516 square feet. That's more projects and more square feet than all but three states: New York, California, and Texas. When taking population into account, D.C. certified 46 sq. ft. per capita, compared to just 3.7 sq. ft. per capita in the top state, Massachusetts.

Maryland and Virginia also scored among the top 10 states for green buildings. Maryland was number 5 per capita, and Virginia was number 8.

D.C.'s new green buildings include a range of types, including public and private edifices, from offices to schools.

One of those buildings was the 801 East Men's Shelter, a 396-bed homeless shelter on the St. Elizabeth's campus in Ward 8. There are numerous federal facilities on the list as well, including the National Museum of the American Indian.

The District scored well in past green building reports too. In fact, since the council started producing top-10 states reports in 2010, D.C. has had the highest per capita score every year.

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