Program History

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Since its creation in 1999, Arlington’s Green Building Density Incentive Program has led to the development of over 40 LEED® certified commercial, apartment, and hotel developments. Together these buildings are estimated to be saving millions of kilowatt-hours of energy and millions of gallons of water each year. Selection of low toxicity materials, non-smoking requirements, daylighting, and accessible on-site open space supports the health of Arlington’s workers, residents, and visitors. To learn more read our report:

Highlights of Green Building Development in Arlington, 2006-2016

Private Development History

In October 1999, the County Board adopted a Pilot Green Building Incentive Program based on the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system to evaluate special exception site plan requests for bonus density and/or height. The original incentive program offered bonus density up to .25 FAR exclusively for office buildings achieving LEED Silver certification.

Although many developers expressed interest in the pilot program, only one project applied and received bonus density in exchange for a LEED Silver certification. After more than three years of experience and feedback, Arlington County updated and expanded the Green Building Density Incentive Program in 2003. The updated program allowed the County Board to consider requests from all types of site plan developments (office, residential and mixed-use) at all four levels of LEED certification. In 2003, the County’s Green Building Fund was also established. Developers who did not commit to LEED certification contributed to the Fund at a rate of $0.03 per square foot. If the developer later achieved LEED certification, the contribution would be refunded. The Green Building Fund is available for education and outreach to the developers and the community on green building issues.  

In 2009, the Green Building Incentive program was reviewed and updated again. The amount of bonus density was adjusted based on market acceptance of the LEED standard. The program was modified with slightly more density offered to residential construction to encourage residential projects to participate in the program. The green building fund contribution was also increased to $0. 045 per square foot.

The program was revised again in 2012  to address market acceptance of the LEED program and to take a step toward the greenhouse gas reduction goals outlined in Arlington’s Community Energy Plan. Projects could request bonus density in exchange for a commitment to a minimum level of energy savings and LEED Silver certification or higher. In addition, participating projects were asked to report energy usage to the County for 10 years. Projects could also request a small amount of additional density in exchange for a commitment to achieve LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance or ENERGY STAR building certification.

The green building program was again updated on November 15, 2014. The program adopted LEED Version. Projects were able to request bonus density in exchange for LEED Silver certification of higher. Commercial office buildings earning bonus density required to agree to earn ENERGY STAR building certification within four years of occupancy. An additional 0.025 FAR was available for achieving one of eight Arlington priority credits (with credit given for up to two priority credits). Projects designed and constructed to achieve at least LEED Gold certification plus two Arlington priority credits plus Net Zero Energy Building certification through the International Living Futures Institute were able to apply for bonus density above 0.55 FAR. Affordable housing projects receiving tax credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) were allowed to earn bonus density using the Earthcraft green building rating system at the Gold or Platinum certification level.

Public Development History

Arlington County Government incorporates green features into its new public facilities. Virginia’s first Silver LEED certification was awarded to Arlington’s Langston-Brown School and Community Center in September 2003. In the fall of 2008, this commitment was formalized in Arlington’s Policy for Integrated Facility SustainabilityThe policy commits Arlington to build public facilities that reduce costs through energy and water efficiency, provide healthy work environments for staff and visitors and contribute to the County’s goals of protecting, conserving and enhancing the region’s environmental resources.

The policy states, in general, that Arlington will fund, design and construct projects to achieve the LEED Silver certification. The policy applies to buildings owned by the County as well as space leased by the County. The appropriate LEED rating system will be applied on a case-by-case basis (LEED for New Construction, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Core and Shell, etc.) The policy does not apply to Arlington Public School projects.

The policy was updated in 2019 to place greater emphasis on energy efficiency, performance based results, and cost effectiveness of new County facilities and major renovations. The policy was updated in 2020 to continue to keep pace with market and technology changes. 

Check out Arlington County’s LEED certified projects