Green Building Policies in San Mateo County

Green Building Ordinance for Unincorporated Areas

On February 26, 2008, the Board of Supervisors passed a new Green Building Ordinance that applies to San Mateo County unincorporated areas.

December 11, 2001: The County of San Mateo has adopted a Sustainable Building Policy that requires future County buildings to be built to LEED standards, as developed by the US Green Building Council.

Supervisor Jacobs Gibson Introduces County's Green Building Policy (Press Release)

County of San Mateo
Sustainable Building Policy


This policy states the Board of Supervisors' commitment to environmental, economic, and social stewardship through sustainable building practices for County facilities and buildings. The Board of Supervisors expects the implementation of this policy to yield cost savings to County taxpayers through reduced operating costs, to provide a healthy work environment for County employees and visitors to County facilities and buildings, to contribute to the realization of the Board of Supervisors' stated goal of protecting, conserving, and enhancing the region's environmental resources, and to help establish a community standard of sustainable building for San Mateo County.

Organizations Affected

All County departments


Sustainable Building

Sustainable building integrates building materials and methods that promote environmental quality, economic vitality, and social benefit through the design, construction and operation of the built environment. Sustainable building merges sound, environmentally responsible practices into one discipline that looks at the environmental, economic and social effects of a building or built project as a whole. Sustainable building design encompasses the following broad topics: efficient management of energy and water resources, management of material resources and waste, protection of environmental quality, protection of health and indoor environmental quality, reinforcement of natural systems, and the integration of the design approach.

Life Cycle Cost Analysis

Life cycle cost analysis is an inclusive approach to costing a program, facility, or group of facilities that encompasses planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance over the useful life of the facility or group of facilities as well as any decommissioning or disassembly costs. Life cycle cost analysis looks at the net present value of design options as investments. The goal is to achieve the highest, most cost-effective environmental performance possible over the life of the project.

LEED Rating System

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven green building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council. It is based on existing, proven technology and evaluates environmental performance from a "whole building" perspective. LEED is a certifying system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and multi-family residential buildings. It contains prerequisites and credits in five categories: Sustainable Site Planning, Improving Energy Efficiency, Conserving Materials and Resources, Embracing Indoor Environmental Quality, and Safeguarding Water. There are four rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.


It is the policy of the Board of Supervisors to finance, plan, design, construct, manage, renovate, maintain, and decommission its facilities and buildings to be sustainable. The US Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system and Reference Guide shall be the design and measurement tools used to determine what constitutes sustainable building under this policy. This policy applies to new construction and additions to existing buildings and facilities whenever the gross occupied area of the new construction is over 5,000 square feet.

Design and project management teams for buildings and facilities meeting the criteria of this policy are encouraged to achieve certification at the highest practicable LEED rating level. In achieving its rating each such building or facility shall comply with all applicable LEED protocols, including being registered with the US Green Building Council at the beginning of a project and applying for LEED certification at its completion

Design and project management teams for new structures of less than 5000 square feet and all renovations or retrofits are encouraged to apply sustainable building practices, build to LEED standards, and to apply for LEED certification if practicable.

The County will carry out its commitment on this policy by assuring that County personnel who administer projects are fully understanding of green building principles and will encourage the selected design teams to maintain and employ these principles through every phase. Criteria for choosing designers, architects, construction managers, and consulting teams shall include demonstrated knowledge of green building practices in their specific fields, and as applicable, a familiarity with life cycle cost analysis and LEED ratings

Procedures and Responsibilities

The County Managers Office shall convene an interdepartmental Green Building Committee to implement this policy.

The Department of Public Works shall work with County departments to coordinate any educational and technical resources that support and promote sustainable design and construction of County facilities. Public Works shall be responsible for annually evaluating and reporting to the Green Building Committee on the implementation of this policy.

All new construction or additions of at least 5000 square feet shall be evaluated for compliance with this policy and said evaluation will be reported to the Board of Supervisors.

Budgeting and Financing

The appropriation for all capital construction subject to this policy after date of adoption shall include funding to meet the requirements of this policy. Budget planning and life cycle cost analysis to achieve the highest rating is encouraged.


The County will make LEED training opportunities available for its capital project managers managing or likely to manage projects within the purview of this policy and expects all such project managers to attend this training. LEED training will be coordinated through the Department of Public Works.