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Green Communities and Building Design

This page provides links to various resources and articles on green building for local governments in Washington State, as well as selected examples of local provisions.


Green building practices provide an opportunity to create environmentally-sound and resource-efficient buildings through an integrated approach to design. Green communities extend the green concepts to a neighborhood or community-wide scale. Northwest communities, including King County, Seattle, and Portland, have emerged as leaders in the green communities and green building movement. A green building is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet objectives such as protecting occupant health; reducing operation and maintenance costs; using energy, water, and other resources efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Members of the U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED system. This system gives points for environmentally beneficial building attributes, with ratings from certified, silver, and gold to platinum for the highest ranked buildings. For example, in Seattle, any public building project of 5,000 or more square feet of occupied space must achieve a LEED silver rating.

The LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design. LEED for Neighborhood Development is a collaboration between the U.S. Green Building Council, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

General Information on Green Building Design and Green Communities

The following are general links to information on green building design and green communities and organizations supporting green design.

Green Communities and Building Programs in Washington State

This section includes links to selected governmental green building programs, policies, and documents.

State Green Building Resources

  • Ch. 39.35D RCW - High-Performance Public Buildings - Requires LEED silver certification for major facility projects funded in the state capital budget
  • Washington State Department of Ecology, Green Building - Technical and educational assistance to state and local governments and others in Washington State
  • Washington State Department of Commerce

Local Government Green Building Programs

Seattle and King County have developed comprehensive green building programs.

Selected Green Building Programs of Other Washington Jurisdictions

Examples of Local Government Green Purchasing Programs

Many local governments are promoting green purchasing that is environmentally sustainable. Although this does not relate to green buildings and communities per se, it is part of the overall green programs established by local governments.

Incentives and Grants for Green Buildings

Some communities with green building programs provide financial incentives for LEED™-certified buildings and green building projects. There are a few special grant programs available for green buildings and sustainable projects. Other types of incentives, such as density bonuses and expedited permit processing, are also common.

Land Use Incentives and Density Bonuses

Redmond has the most developed green building incentive program. Other jurisdictions provide bonuses for LEED-certified buildings as part of general flexible development incentives or for certified buildings in specific zones, often in planned developments.

  • Auburn Municipal Code Ch. 18.49 - Flexible Development Alternatives - LEED certification is a bonus feature; see Flexible Development Matrices for Residential and Mixed Use in Sec.18.49.020(C) and §18.49.030(C)
  • Bellevue Land Use Code Part 20.30D - Planned Unit Development (see Section 20.30D.160(B) - Built Green certification a conservation design factor)
  • Ellensburg Municipal Code Ch. 15.330 - Density Bonus Incentives - Energy efficient construction (LEED) or similar certification is a density bonus element
  • Everett Zoning Code Sec. 22.020(E)(1)(i) - LEED silver rating is a bonus design element in the B-3 zone
  • Newcastle Municipal Code Sec. 18.36.040(E)(1)(i) - Green Building floor area ratio incentive
  • Redmond Zoning Code Ch. 21.67 - Green Building and Green Infrastructure Incentive Program (GBP)

Additional References

This section includes additional articles and information on green building design.

Last Modified: January 24, 2023