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City first in state to earn LEED gold

December 19, 2018

As snow covers the ground, Rochester has gotten a little greener.

The city has become the first in Minnesota to earn gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

Commonly referred to as LEED, the certification for cities addresses sustainability, quality of life, education, prosperity, equity, public health and safety. It sets a 100-point system, and gold-certified cities must score 60 to 79 points.

Kevin Bright, director of sustainability for the city and Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency, said the new status provides a platform to track changes in the city and provide a measure against other communities.

“Rochester is undergoing significant change and LEED for Cities is providing a platform to help us better understand our city from an environmental, social and equity perspective,” he said in a statement announcing the certification.

This is the first year the city has sought LEED certification under the city-based program that started in 2016.

Bright said the results are a reflection on citywide efforts, from the creation of new local policies to independent work being done by developers, businesses and individuals.

Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, said the efforts will help ensure a more sustainable future.

“Cities and communities that achieve LEED certification are lowering carbon emissions, creating a healthier environment and striving to improve the quality of life for its residents,” he stated in announcing the certifications. “Rochester is setting a standard for what it means to be a high performer and we applaud their efforts and achievements.”

Mayor-Elect Kim Norton has made improving sustainability efforts a goal in her first term.

“I definitely want to strengthen the sustainable, livable community concept,” she said during a recent interview.

She cited Bright’s work and noted the city will have an intern arriving in April as part of a German exchange program focused on energy usage and sustainability.

“I think there’s a lot more work that can be done,” said Norton, who as been a member of the city’s Energy Commission.

The Rochester City Council has already done some work that will benefit future ratings, Bright said.

Recent amendments to the city’s tax increment financing policy encourage developers to consider building with LEED criteria in mind, and the city’s move to add electric-powered buses will help lift its future scores.

Bright said he’s excited to see the effects of current initiatives in future years.

“That will all help boost our rating in the future,” he said.

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