San Francisco Wins WorldGBC Award, Best City Policy for Green Building

Dec 5th, 2011 – At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-17) today in Durban, South Africa, San Francisco was awarded as the overall winner of the World Green Building Council's Government Leadership Awards for Excellence in City Policy for Green Building. The award acknowledges international best practice in city-level government policy for green building initiatives and recognizes green buildings as an important means to reduce carbon emissions.  Mayor Lee was unable to travel to Durban but was honored to receive the award on behalf of the city via recorded video acceptance. (seen here:

Twenty-two highly competitive nominations were received from cities around the world for this prestigious award. Out of this group, San Francisco was selected as the overall winner, for its Green Building Ordinance and additional green building policies and programs.

“San Francisco’s innovative and comprehensive green building policies are lasting investments in the environmental and economic future of our great city,” said Mayor Ed Lee.  “The Green Building Ordinance employs San Francisco’s design talent, as well as technological and business innovations, to ensure that we meet the market demands of the 21st century, protect the environment, and support the health and well being of our residents. Thank you to the many City staff, particularly at the Department of Building Inspection, Department of the Environment, and the SF Public Utilities Commission, for their commitment to a sustainable city.  I also wish to extend my appreciation to the local building industry professionals who design, construct, and manage the green buildings for which we are receiving this award.”

“Buildings account for 55% of citywide greenhouse gas emissions in San Francisco, making our policies and programs, as well as this prestigious award, that much more meaningful,” said Melanie Nutter, Director of the Department of Environment. “Utilizing innovation policies, practical tools, and financial incentives, we have made it easy for building owners to make the right decision for our environment as well as their bottom line.”

 “San Francisco is honored to win the World Green Building Council Leadership Award for ‘Best Green Building Policy,’ and to provide a global urban model where intelligent, sensitive and sensible building policies create on-the-ground solutions for our building environment. By providing market-based economic incentives to developers building major new commercial and residential developments in harmony with green building science, the City’s green policies attract substantial economic investments while implementing more energy efficient and socially responsible construction. With experts estimating more than half of all greenhouse emissions are in the construction and operations of buildings, San Francisco’s green building policies are leading the way for important changes in how we live, work and enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful urban environments,” says Vivian L. Day, Chief Building Official and Director, Department of Building Inspection.

“The implementation of the Green Building Ordinance and related policies have allowed us to replicate some of the City’s successful green energy and water conservation programs in commercial buildings throughout the San Francisco,” said Ed Harrington, General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). “These energy and water efficiency initiatives have significantly reduced water consumption and energy usage throughout San Francisco.  Additionally, the fact that our City’s municipal facilities are powered by clean, 100% greenhouse gas-free Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric power truly makes San Francisco one of the greenest cities.”

WorldGBC is not alone in their assessment of San Francisco’s policies for the built environment; the city has been recognized as the #1 best market for green development in America by the Green Building Opportunity Index for the past two years, named Greenest City in North America in 2011 based on independent analysis by Siemens, and has been among the top 3 markets with the greatest number of ENERGY STAR buildings for the past three years.

This recognition is shared by many partners and couldn’t have been achieved without continued support and cooperation from our city departments, local businesses, and the entire San Francisco community. Together their work has resulted in a market transformation based on:

  1. Monetary benefits: Incentives and rebates for retrofits to improve energy and water efficiency, as well as lower operating expenses such as reduced utility costs
  2. Recognition: LEED and Energy Star certifications are now recorded by the city’s Assessor Recorders office; the city’s official record system
  3. Information: Knowing how a building compares to its neighbors, a direct result of the Existing Commercial Building Ordinance
  4. Tools: Collaboration between public and private sectors result in the Green Tenant Tool Kit
  5. Capital: GreenFinanceSF is a commercial PACE program in place to provide secure capital for energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy retrofits
  6. High Standards: The Green Building Ordinance ensures that new building and large renovations are built to be sustainable and that obsolete inefficient equipment is replaced

Industry leaders comment on the significance of the WorldGBC award

“San Francisco has served as an exemplary model for green building policy in the United States, and this achievement showcases the global impact of this city’s great work,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “I commend San Francisco for its reputable green building policies and hope that other cities throughout the world will replicate the efforts to reduce global footprint and create opportunities to mitigate carbon emissions.”  

"Five years ago, San Francisco pioneered the use of green building codes to advance urban sustainability," stated Bill Worthen, an original member of Mayor Gavin Newsom's Green Building Task Force and now Resource Architect for Sustainability at the American Institute of Architects.  "This stakeholder driven policy paved the way for many, many others, and has been a major force in defining how the building industry and government can effectively work together to deliver high performance buildings while helping the environment and the economy."

“Congratulations to the City of San Francisco for winning the prestigious World Green Building Council’s “Best Green Building Policy” award!  The global significance of San Francisco’s leadership demonstrates how the public and private sector can work together to develop smart, forward-thinking policies that advance the sustainability movement and strengthen our local economy.  It’s no accident that San Francisco is North America’s greenest city!” says Dan Geiger Executive Director U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter

About the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC)

The WorldGBC is a coalition of more than 90 national green building councils, making it the largest international organization influencing the green building marketplace. The WorldGBC's mission is to facilitate the global transformation of the building industry towards sustainability through market driven mechanisms. The WorldGBC supports the creation successful GBCs and ensures they have the resources needed to prosper, advocates the important role of green buildings in mitigating global climate change and promotes effective building performance rating tools and the development of mandatory minimum standards for energy efficiency in buildings. For more information visit