Mayor Newsom announces expedited permit processing for green building

(September 28, 2006)

New directive issued to help kickoff West Coast Green Residential Building Conference and Expo

SAN FRANCISCO – Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced that The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) - in close cooperation with the Department of Environment (DOE) and the Department of Planning - is finalizing a new directive that gives priority permit review to all new and renovated buildings that qualify for the LEED Gold rating or equivalent. The announcement comes on the heels of the kickoff for the West Coast Green Residential Building Conference and Expo at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium - the largest residential green conference in the United States. If approved by the Building Inspection Commission, DBI will begin implementing this fast-track process in October.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program was adopted by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide a definitive standard for what constitutes a "green building". It is now the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance 'green' buildings. Promoting a whole-building approach to sustainability, LEED rates performance in five key areas: sustainable site development; water savings; energy efficiency; materials selection; and indoor environmental quality.

"This directive provides incentives to encourage more developers to 'go for the gold'," said Mayor Newsom. "Expedited LEED Gold certification means more energy-efficient buildings for our city. It is a way for San Francisco to attract substantial economic investment, while also implementing socially responsible architecture," continued the Mayor.

Planning Director Dean Macris has already implemented a priority review process for LEED certification. DOE projects that the directive could yield about 6 green buildings per year, if 20% of LEED registered buildings attempt Gold certification. The department is currently processing one priority green building application, with two more pending.

The bottom-line return on investment from LEED Gold buildings is estimated to produce savings of $50 per square-foot, while additional costs are under $5 per square-foot to build - a ten-fold return. DOE's Green Building Program has developed a web-based project information and reporting tool ( that quantifies both the financial and environmental benefits that accrue to a building owner based on achieving a LEED certification. The New California Academy of Sciences, slated to achieve LEED Platinum, is projected to save $337,000 per year in energy and water savings compared to the minimum standards that building codes would allow.

To earn LEED certification, a building must be registered with the U.S. Green Building Council. It then merits Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum ranking by meeting specified prerequisites and performance "credits" within each of these categories. Thus, to earn LEED Gold requires a project to achieve at least 40 out of a possible 69 total credit points - significantly higher than LEED Silver, but below LEED Platinum.

Since LEED's unveiling as a national standard, the number of projects around the country seeking certification has climbed from 45 in 2000 to more than 200 in 2005. Several cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Austin, have adopted the LEED standard for government-funded projects. LEED's growing popularity signals the rise of a new approach to development - and a firm commitment to better, healthier spaces for occupants while insuring a lighter impact on our natural environment.

West Coast Green takes place September 28-30, 2006. 250 exhibitors showcase the latest resource-efficient technology, while over 100 experts and visionary leaders present developments in green building to approximately 6,000 attendees.

San Francisco Data

7 LEED Certified Buildings in San Francisco

Chong and Partners Architecture - CI Gold

HOK Architecture - CI Certified

Knoll Furniture Showroom - CI Silver

Natural Resources Defense Council - CI Gold

Swinerton Builders - EB Gold

UCSF Cell and Tissue Biology Laboratory -CI Certified

Glumac San Francisco Office - CI Silver

29 Pending LEED Buildings in San Francisco, including

18 LEED New Construction including

Orchard Hotel (First LEED Hotel in U.S.)

California Academy of Sciences

Laguna Honda Hospital

GSA Federal Building

San Francisco Waldorf High School

Total square footage of buildings in SF that are LEED Certified and LEED Registered - 8,335,109 sq. ft.

City Requirements for Municipal Buildings

LEED Silver rating required for any new construction and major renovations over 5,000 sq. ft. (adopted 2004)

San Francisco Municipal Green Building Projects as of July 11, 2006

Name Department Stage Rating Goal
Plaza Apartments Redevelopment Agency Completed LEED Silver
California Academy of Sciences SF Rec and Parks Construction LEED Platinum
Laguna Honda Hospital DPH Construction LEED Certified
SFPUC Operations Center SFPUC Design LEED Silver
San Francisco History Museum Hist. and Museum Soc. Design LEED Silver
Sustainable Garden Center at Strybing Arboretum SF Rec and Parks Design LEED Silver
West Field Cargo Development SFO Design LEED Silver
Treasure Island Redevelopment TIDA Planning LEED Silver
San Francisco Green Communities 561 units MOH / MOCD Planning Green Communities
One South Van Ness Avenue Admin Services Planning LEED-EB Silver
Civic Center Relocation Projects Admin Services Planning LEED-EB Silver

Environmental Impact of Buildings (commercial and residential) (Per USGBC)

  • 65.2% of total US electricity consumption
  • 48% of total US primary energy use
  • 46% of total US greenhouse gas emissions
  • 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste in the US (approx. 2.8 lbs/person/day)
  • 12% of potable water in the US
  • 40% (3 Billion tons annually) of raw materials use globally


Department of the Environment, City and County of San Francisco

11 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Telephone: (415) 355-3700 Fax: (415) 554-6393