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Green Building Legal Research Guide: Home

The focus of this guide is the search for local land use laws relevant to green building law. This research guide includes links to primary and secondary sources.


Green buildings are designed and built using an environmentally responsible and resource-efficient  design from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.  Use this guide to find local laws which put into effect the land use plans of local governments, the national standards, and  the planning documents, both local and regional, which inform land use planning and green building design.

Google Search

Google Web Search

Google Search

Google offers customized searches. Advanced search offers:

  • Require / exclude words
  • Search for a phrase
  • Limit results by language
  • Limit results by format type
  • Search within a site or domain. e.g. site:gov.
  • Limit by date or region
  • Require where the keywords show up

Google Scholar search includes legal opinions from all U.S. courts and many law reviews and journals. Results can be sorted by jurisdiction (state or federal) or type of document (court opinion or journal). Results can be saved when you log in with your Google account. 

Generating Search Terms - Topical

Take a few minutes to generate a list of possible search terms before you start your research. You'll probably find that there will be a family of terms that deal specifically with the non-legal aspects of your topic, and terms that relate to the legal and planning aspects of your topic. 

Let's assume we're looking for newspaper articles and other current awareness materials regarding outdoor water use and management in the context of green buildings. Think about the words that are part of your topic in terms of these categories:

  • Synonyms:  water conservation
  • Broader: smart growth, sustainable development
  • Narrower Terms or Planning Terms:  storm water management, storm water runoff, swales, berms, porous pavement, rain gardens, wastewater, biologially treated water, wetlands, vegetated infiltration basins 
  • Related Terms: green leases, greenhouse gas emissions, high performance building, low impact design 
  • Terms of Art: green roofs, gray water 

As you review and evaluate your search results, you will learn which terms and combinations of terms are most effective in particular contexts/databases. You will be able to expand this list of search terms as your understanding of the subject area and the language used to describe it grows. 

Generating Search Terms - General

In order to effectively search for local laws, it will be useful to search the Internet for collections of relevant local  laws / model laws which have been brought together by others.  Here are some search terms that are often used when describing these collections:

  • Local Laws:  bylaws, codes, local laws, ordinances, plans, comprehensive plans, master plans
  • Types of laws: overlay districts, overlay zones
  • Regional actions: intermunicipal agreements, IMAs, regional planning
  • Model [Laws]: draft [laws], model [laws], proposed [laws], sample [laws]
  • Collections: best practices, case studies, clearinghouse, success stories
  • Guidance: guidelines, handbook, manual, toolkit, toolbox
Also keep in mind the state or federal laws which may be described as:
  • enabling acts, enabling laws, enabling statutes, acts, laws, statutes, regulations