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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?    

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Platinum Banner Bank Building

Banner Bank Building

Well actually, it’s more of a mid-rise, but 11 stories in Boise is about as skyscraper as it gets.  According to Gary Christensen, Christensen Corporation owner and Banner Bank Building developer, "we created a beautiful, high-performance building that’s good for the environment.  And it didn’t cost us any more to do it."  Specifically, the 195,000 sf, $25 million building was built to spec (ulation), so the ability to strike market-competitive lease deals was paramount on the project.  Also, on July 27, 2006, Banner Bank Building received the coveted LEED-CS Platinum certification, earning 49 out of a possible 62 points in the Core and Shell Development system.  In tangible savings, the building uses 65% less energy and 80% less water. 

The following is a list of some of the many green features built into the Banner Bank Building:  proximately situated near public transportation access; indoor bicycle storage and individual shower rooms; drought tolerant vegetation and automated irrigation system with motion sensors; state-of-the-art water reclamation system and conserving water fixtures, systems, and mechanical equipment; geothermal heat system and underfloor air distribution HVAC; 75%+ construction waste was separated, collected, and recycled; the building was constructed using locally sourced materials and 40%+ recycled content materials; zero- to low-VOC indoor finish materials; dimmable energy-efficient lighting; and a biodiesel fuel-powered backup generator. 

Extra Links:
+USGBC Project Profile LEED Facts
+HDR Project Summary Page
+Better Bricks Interview with Gary Christensen

Skyscraper Sunday: 1180 Peachtree, One Symphony Center

Symphony_main_1 The subject of this week’s Skyscraper Sunday is the striking 1180 Peachtree in Atlanta, Georgia.  Designed by Pickard Chilton Architects, 1180 Peachtree rises 41-stories with a 119-foot lighted veil at the top.  It was also one of the first offices nationally to receive LEED-CS Silver pre-certification for its use of recycled materials, encouragement of alternative transportation, minimization of environmental impact by sourcing materials locally, and attention to using no- or low-VOC adhesives, sealants, and carpets.  Developed by Hines, the building has vegetation on the roof to absorb rainwater, store it in underground storage, and use for landscaping (eliminating the need for city water).  With about 670,000 sf of office + 35,000 sf of retail, this building is a gem in the Atlanta market.  In the middle of 2006, the local real estate community did a double take when 1180 Peachtree sold for $400 per sf.  Some people said this was part of a trend (good office market in Atlanta, lots of capital, etc.), but I think the selling price was a reflection of the excellence of the property.  It’s a flagship, a trophy property, a green property.  Green properties are (1) new, (2) well-designed, (3) easy to lease, and (4) fit well with all companies.  It’s not hard to sell an amazing, great-looking, stabilized asset with low vacancy. 

Happy Green Homeowners, LEED Silver CarMax, + Godin on No Impact Man (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Study Shows Green Homeowners Are Happier With Their Homes and Recommending Them; Cost Savings are a Top Motivating Factor for Buying Green. 
  2. CarMax Receives LEED Silver Certification and Becomes First Company in Virginia to Construct a LEED Building for Corporate Headquarters.
  3. Seth Godin on the No Impact Man; Zero is the New Black

LEED Platinum Sweetwater, A Model of Economics + Design

Sweetwater2  Sweetwater

Back in December, the USGBC awarded Sweetwater Creek State Visitors Center the coveted Platinum level LEED-NC, making it just the 20th building in the world to receive the USGBC’s highest certification.  Sweetwater was designed by Gerding Collaborative, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to reduce the building’s potable water usage by 77% and energy usage by 51%.  At these numbers, when compared to a similar building, Sweetwater avoids about 27 tons of carbon emissions annually.  Plus, there’s the financial case for the building.  Sweetwater was completed at $175 per sf, which I understand is highly competitive for the area. 

In the words of Dan Gerding, AIA, Managing Principal of Gerding Collaborative, "The Sweetwater Project is a great example of how a new way of looking at design is good for the building’s owner, good for the people who use the building on a daily basis, and good for the environment."  His firm walks the talk.  About 70% of the firm’s technical staff is LEED Accredited (LEED-AP). 

The building has a slew of classic green features such as a 10.5 KW photovoltaic array, vegetated roof, composting toilet system, drip irrigation system, and rainwater collection system.  Also, for the architects out there, Sweetwater is one of the first LEED-Platinum buildings to be designed using 3D "virtual building" technology, Archicad 10.  I understand the technology allowed different members of the team to visualize the project in context to provide design and technology solutions more effectively than if the project were designed with the typical 2D approach. 

Extra Links:
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release

Interview: Steve Glenn – CEO of LivingHomes, by Core77

Steve Glenn Broadcast

[Run time = 26 min.]  I’ve posted about LivingHomes here, here, and here.  Well, Steve Glenn is the company’s CEO and Founder and he has some interesting things to say.  If you’re still unsure about his green cred, he built the first LEED Platinum home in the United States (with the design help of Ray Kappe).  Enjoy…

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