|Richmond on Track to be First in Contra
Costa to Pass Green Building Law
April 9, 2009
The following is from the West County Times. The passage of this legislation was the product of extraordinary cooperation among the Richmond City staff, the Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Industries, all of whom came together with a plan that the City Council supported.
Richmond on track to be first in Contra Costa to pass green building law
Posted: 04/08/2009 11:32:50 AM PDT
Updated: 04/08/2009 03:09:28 PM PDT
Richmond city leaders are on the verge of making "green building" more than a catch phrase; they want to make it law.
A new green building ordinance would award points for buildings that use recycled materials, are energy efficient or that employ other "green" measures focused on conservation and using resources efficiently. Developers would have to amass a minimum number of points, which varies depending on what they're building, to get a construction permit.
The law would apply to new houses and additions to houses. It also would apply to new and renovated commercial buildings.
Richmond would be the first city in Contra Costa County to pass such a law. The City Council gave the ordinance initial approval on Tuesday night, and are on track to give final approval after some clarifications are made to the wording.
Other California cities, including Albany, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Jose, have enacted similar ordinances. Richmond is in the middle of the pack when it comes to how stringent its requirements would be for commercial construction, and a little above the middle when it comes to residential construction.
"We're not at the bottom, we're not at the top," city planner Joe Light said. "It's moderately ambitious but not as radical as what some other cities are aiming at."
The ordinance will be revised over time based on industry changes, he added.
"Green building is evolving," Light said. "What's rigorous now is going to be mainstream later."
Officials imposed the first requirement to build green on themselves in 2007. Attempting to "lead by example," the city required green techniques be used to construct and renovate municipal buildings. Civic Center, which is undergoing a $101 million retrofit that's nearly complete, now sports solar panels on its roof, water-efficient plants, more natural lighting and increased ventilation.
Now, officials will demand the same of privately-constructed buildings.
The green building ordinance under consideration is based on a mix of federal, state and industry standards that other cities have adopted.
New home developers can choose from more than 100 green techniques to earn up to 233 points; they would be required under Richmond's law to amass 50 points to get a permit.
Recycling your construction waste is worth two points. Installing an efficient irrigation system for plants earns up to three points. High efficiency toilets are four points. A solar water heating system gets you 10 points.
Constructing a green building typically costs 1 percent to 3 percent more than a standard building, though at least one study suggests the price tag is the same, Light said.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said there will be long-term savings.
"The cost savings in terms of energy cost savings is truly the reason we go forward with this. Remember the purpose we're doing this and the outcome we're going to get from it."
Members of the business community had no objections to the green construction trend, but mostly sought to clarify wording in the ordinance. Officials agreed to make some of those changes before they formally approve the law. An early suggestion from the business community to exempt all industrial buildings was rejected.