Articles - April, 2007

LEED Ordinances: Unlawful or Not? Philosophically Speaking…

Usgbc

Well, it looks like a courageous Palo Alto lawyer has decided to escalate the conversation as to whether LEED ordinances, city ordinances that require developers to build green, are lawful or not.  Here’s the background story.  Currently, Palo Alto requires public projects of 10,000+ sf to be certified under the USGBC guidelines, but they’re considering a mixture of alternatives that would require private developers to build to USGBC standards.  Generally speaking, there are two ways to get private developers to go green:

  1. Carrot Incentives – provide utility rebates, design allowances, floor area ratio increases, density increases, fast-track permits, etc.
  2. Stick Regulations – charge a "green fee" for developments that aren’t green, deny site plan or building permit approvals, or require LEED for approvals. 

Palo Alto City Attorney Gary Baum warned that green building requirements (i.e., stick regulations) have no legal basis.  Further, it’s in the city’s best interests to incentivize rather than restrict.  Let’s get legal, though.  What differentiates standard building codes with green building codes?  There’s a legal basis for adherence to standard building codes, but there’s no basis for green building codes?  Is it the police powers?  Where’s the argument for "no legal basis?"  I’m not saying I disagree, because personally, I think it’s more effective to go with option #1, carrot incentives.  But let’s enunciate the argument for there being no legal basis to adopt a LEED ordinance.

There’s a philosophical component to the situation and I see three general options:  wait on the free market, incentivize the market, or regulate the market.  The free market would likely be against both the second and the third, because incentives also interfere with market economics.  The incentivizer would say the free market never comes around and the regulator is a pain in the butt.  The regulator would say the free market is weak and slow and the incentivizer trades money for cooperation, the wrong way to make sure something gets done.  What do you think?  Free market? Incentivize?  Regulate? LEED Ordinances are illegal?    

Free iTunes Download: Sundance Channel Green TV Show; Better Hurry!

Sundance Channel Big Ideas

Quick post here, but I want to let you iTunes users know that there’s a free download of the new Sundance Channel TV show called "big ideas for a small planet."  No direct links because you need to have iTunes downloaded to get it, but it’s on the front page right now.  The season premiere is called "Fuel," and I just finished watching it.  Download it, come back, and leave a comment on what you thought.

Has Anyone Seen "The Green House" Exhibit at D.C.'s National Building Museum?

Click to Purchase The Green House When I was in Washington, D.C., a couple weekends back, in addition to participating in GWU’s real estate competition and visiting AWEA, I took a tour of the National Building Museum’s exhibit called "The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design."  If you’ve been there, by all means, leave a comment as to what you thought.  I thought it was a great exhibit.  I wanted to take pictures to show everyone, but no cameras were allowed inside.  Regardless, pictures wouldn’t do it justice, because the entire exhibit showcases some incredible green concepts and materials. 

Included in the tour is a real-life The Glidehouse, which is a prefab by Michelle Kaufmann.  It’s very cool.  Very modern.  The tour also has a Heliodon, or a sun machine, which allows you to see how the sun hits a home (see solar orientation).  The exhibit also explains the 5 Principles of Sustainable Homes:

  1. Optimizing Use of Sun
  2. Improving Indoor Air Quality
  3. Using the Land Responsibly
  4. Creating High-Performance and Moisture-Resistant Homes
  5. Wisely Using the Earth’s Natural Resources

Towards the end, there’s a green materials section that lets you see and feel different green floorings, ceilings, countertops, and paints.  I heard people looking at it saying stuff like, "Wow, that’s nice…," or "That doesn’t look green at all…"  It’s true.  The environmental movement of yesterday has an entirely new face for the future.  It looks good and comes at a competitive price.  If you can’t go to D.C. or you want some more information, you can buy the exhibit book here or at your local bookstore.  The Green House Exhibit will be on display until June 24, 2007.   

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