How green is Rhode Island?

Green design has become the rage in a lot of places, and for good reason: it helps to cut contributors to global warming and reduces the need for expensive energy resources. But as Marisa Angell Brown wrote last week in the Phoenix, it's not easy being green in Rhode Island:

Rhode Island remains far behind many of our neighbors in the Northeast, where there has been either more proactive legislation or greater local support from institutions and corporations, when it comes to promoting green design.
There are only 13 buildings, in various stages of completion, in Rhode Island that hope to attain LEED certification. Seven of these are in Providence, putting the city well behind New Haven, Connecticut, and Burlington, Vermont. In Massachusetts, by contrast, there are more than 140 green buildings which have or hope to achieve green status.
Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline has signaled his support for a handful of measures that will make the capital a “green city,” including a zoning regulation to create incentives for developments such as Dynamo House, and mandate green design for city-owned projects. Governor Donald L. Carcieri has already taken a significant step forward; thanks to an August 2005 executive order, all new state-owned construction and renovation projects must be built to the silver standard of the LEED certification, which ensures a high level of energy- and water-efficiency.
Still, Rhode Island’s elected officials won’t be the subject of photo spreads in Vanity Fair’s green issue any time soon.
The green design requirements in place or under consideration here are inherently limited in scope, since they relate only to state- and city-owned buildings — which account for a very small percentage of structures in the state.
Although Cicilline asserts that it “won’t be cool to be part of a city that’s not green,” Providence is unlikely to follow the lead of 10 other cities — including Boston and Washington, DC, and such towns such as Babylon, New York, and Normal, Illinois – which require much new private construction to attain certain green design standards.
In Baltimore, Struever Brothers has benefited from the availability of significant green tax credits — which paid for a sophisticated system that recycles storm water into water used for washing dishes, laundry, and bathing at one complex. Here, by contrast, the ambitious 40-panel solar installation originally proposed for Dynamo House has been drastically scaled back due to the state’s limited subsidies for solar power.
In conversations with more than 20 local practitioners and policy-makers in the field of green design, one point of view was expressed again and again. As Wilbur Yoder, a professor in the Department of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, puts it, “The atmosphere exists, and the interest exists, but we need leadership at the state and local levels to push this.” 
Or, as Struever Brothers’ Seth Handy says, in his characteristic understated manner, “We thought there’d be more incentives out there when we began.”

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