A large portion of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to energy use in buildings, both here in Fairfax County and nationwide. By constructing buildings designed to use less energy, Fairfax County can save taxpayer dollars and reduce our carbon footprint. Green buildings do more than just reduce energy use, they also address water use, waste, siting, indoor air quality, and material sourcing. Studies show that people who work in green buildings perform better, feel healthier, and have a better overall experience at their workplace.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) rating system includes several tiers. The goal for county projects greater than 10,000 square feet is silver certification; smaller facilities are recommended for certification.
On this page, you will find information about Fairfax County's green building policy for county-owned and operated buildings. Use the map and dropdowns below to learn more.
The green building policy for Fairfax County facilities dates to 2008, when the Board of Supervisors adopted a Sustainable Development Policy for Capital Projects. This policy, which applied to the construction of new county buildings and major renovations or additions to existing buildings, required county government buildings of more than 10,000 square feet to meet or exceed minimum green building standards.
In September 2020, the Board adopted an update to this policy that demonstrated a greater commitment to environmental, economic, and social stewardship; this 2020 update included incremental strengthening of the energy performance improvement criteria and a multi-year transition to Net Zero Energy (NZE).
In July 2021, following its adoption of the Carbon Neutral Counties Declaration and as part of its adoption of the 2021 Operational Energy Strategy (OES), the Board further strengthened its green building policies by replacing the 2020 update with a Net Zero Energy (NZE) standard for new construction and major renovations and providing for building electrification. As of 2021, county public school projects continue to be designed using the Virginia-Collaborative for High Performance Schools (VA-CHPS) criteria.
The county’s 2021 green building policy is set forth in the Green Building section of the 2021 OES. It provides that, for facilities with an occupied area greater than 10,000 square feet:
- All new construction and major renovations beginning planning and design in 2021 must meet NZE standards unless the Board of Supervisors is advised prior to the 30% design phase as to why the project cannot meet the NZE standard. LEED Gold plus 50% more efficient than baseline is the minimum certification.
- All new facility construction, additions and major renovations (a) beginning design in FY 2022 or later are electric-ready and (b) beginning design in FY 2024 or later use only electric equipment and appliances, unless no alternative can be identified./li>
The construction of NZE and near-NZE buildings and major renovations is a critical component of Fairfax County’s plan to achieve energy carbon neutrality. Minimizing energy use through efficient building design is a fundamental design criterion. In addition, as the electric grid in Virginia continues to decarbonize, ensuring that new construction and major renovations avoid direct use of fossil fuels allows the county to further reduce carbon emissions while maximizing use of on-site renewable electricity from solar photovoltaics. There are currently three projects in design tracking NZE.
Buildings are certified under established green building rating systems that recognize outstanding performance in several key areas:
- Sustainable Sites: discourages development on undeveloped land and seeks to minimize a building’s environmental impacts
- Water Efficiency: encourages the smarter use of water inside and out
- Energy & Atmosphere: encourages the implementation of energy-wise strategies
- Materials & Resources: encourages the use of sustainably produced materials and waste reduction, reuse and recycling strategies.
- Indoor Environmental Quality: promotes strategies that improve indoor air quality, acoustics and access to natural daylight.
- Innovation in Design: encourages the use of technologies and strategies that improve a building’s performance.
- Regional Priority: encourages the builders to consider and address local high-priority environmental concerns.
Fairfax County received certifications from the Green Building Initiative's environmental assessment and rating system for commercial buildings.
Two Green Globes
- Foundations (formerly known as the Girls Probation House)
One Green Globes
- Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter