Many legislative bodies are enacting various pieces of legislation encouraging or requiring green construction; but green construction legislation may come with unintended consequences. In The Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute v. City of Albuquerque, a New Mexico U.S. District Court granted a motion for preliminary injunction and prohibited the enforcement of certain Albuquerque green building ordinances until the case was resolved.
In its motion, the plaintiff claimed that portions of Albuquerque’s green building ordinances are preempted by specific federal law that establishes nationwide standards for the energy efficiency and energy use of major residential and commercial appliances and equipment. Albuquerque’s ordinances impose minimum energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential buildings and provide specific ways to achieve these standards, including achieving LEED silver certification. LEED certification was created by the United States Green Building Council and is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings.
In reaching its decision, the Court determined that under federal law, cities and states had limited flexibility in adopting building codes, and could not use building codes as a way to require the installation of products exceeding federal efficiency standards. With respect to LEED certification, the Court concluded, in part, that Albuquerque failed to establish that it was practical to build a home to LEED silver standards using only federally compliant HVAC and water heating products.