Green Development Marches On: Health Care is Up Now; What’s Next?

The new Determination of Need Guidelines for Environmental and Human Health Impact adopted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are further evidence that sustainability and green development are much more than just buzzwords in Massachusetts. It appears that this administration is serious about incorporating green development principles into all executive branch decision-making.

In brief, the Guidelines require a health care facility applying for a Determination of Need (“DoN”) for new construction or gut renovation to meet LEED-HC “silver level” green building standards. The scope of the Guidelines’ impacts could not be broader, implicating site selection, water and electricity use, and choice of construction materials. And because the Guidelines take effect as soon as January 1, 2009, it is likely that projects already under consideration will need to meet the new standards.

I look at the Guidelines as just one example of how the “green” movement is reaching into all corners of our economy. In the past, environmental regulation was concentrated on industries such as mining, agriculture, manufacturing, and power generation. This is changing. Today, government is taking steps to ensure that businesses in a wide variety of industries take cognizance of their water use, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas impacts. It certainly appears that any types of facility subject to government funding or approval should be thinking about green development in general and LEED certification in particular. If health care facilities must meet LEED standards, why not affordable housing or education institutions funded by the Commonwealth? Why not municipal facilities? Indeed, more than a dozen municipalities in the greater Boston area already incorporate LEED or similar green building standards into their zoning bylaws.

While this changing regulatory landscape is certain to impose up-front costs in complying with these standards, there may also be business opportunities for organizations that are proactive in addressing these issues. Companies and organizations that get out ahead of the curve will be well-positioned to take competitive advantage of the real push for green development.

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