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Santa Monica Pushes for Stricter Green Building Laws, While NYC Backs Down

LEEDgrowthA tale of two cities shows both sides of the green building movement. Santa Monica, Calif., known as an environmentally-friendly city, is proposing stricter green building requirements for single-family homes, while New York City is backing down on its ambitious energy-efficiency improvement plans for the city’s buildings.

The new green building proposal by Santa Monica officials could make the city one of the strictest to build homes in the nation, reports the Los Angeles Times blog (via Santa Monica Daily Press).

One new regulation is aimed at improving insulation in low-rise residential buildings to increase energy efficiency, requiring a more comprehensive insulation inspection of new homes that could increase building costs by a dollar to several dollars per square foot, reports Santa Monica Daily Press.

Officials expect the increased energy efficiency and lower costs for heating and cooling systems will offset the added cost, according to the article.

Cost is a huge issue for New York City’s green building plans.

Building owners in New York, citing cost as the major issue, are opposed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plans for energy-efficient buildings, forcing the Mayor to drop one of its key initiatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reports the New York Times.

Mayor Bloomberg is targeting a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, reports Mother Nature Network. Buildings contribute 80 percent of New York City’s total carbon emissions, according to article.

Building owners cited both financing and inequitable burden sharing as key issues, reports the Times. The city has about $16 million in federal stimulus funds for loans, while the cost for building improvements is estimated at about $2.5 billion, reports the newspaper. In addition, owners, who most likely will pay for the retrofits, may not be able to pass the costs on to tenants who are benefiting from the lower electricity bills, according to the article.

Under Bloomberg’s plan, all buildings of 50,000 square feet or more had to undergo energy-efficiency audits to determine which renovations would make them energy efficient and that the owners would have to pay for those retrofits, reports the Times.

The mayor has now settled on a compromise, which still would require energy audits but building owners would now decide whether to make the upgrades, according to the article.

The legislation is still expected to have an impact as it will create the city’s first energy code for all building and large commercial buildings will have to provide tenants with information about their individual energy usage, reports Mother Nature Network.

Despite the added cost, U.S. building owners and developers continue to move ahead with their green building plans. A recent study indicates that nearly 2,500 projects have received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) at some level in the U.S., and nearly 20,000 projects are registered with the USGBC.

The report, “Sustainable, High Performance Projects and Project Delivery Methods: A State of Practice Report” (PDF),  evaluates procurement procedures and three of the most common project delivery methods — design-bid-build, construction manager-at-risk, and design-build — for achieving sustainable design and construction goals, reports EDC Magazine.

The five procurement procedures covered in this study were low bid, best value, competitive negotiation, qualifications-based selection, and sole source, according to the article.

A major finding shows that the key to successfully meeting LEED goals includes using integrated delivery methods (DB and CMR were used in 75 percent of the projects surveyed.) and following qualifications-based selection procurement, reports EDC.

Yet, for some project managers moving towards sustainable buildings, LEED certification is still a high cost to pay.

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One thought on “Santa Monica Pushes for Stricter Green Building Laws, While NYC Backs Down

  1. Santa Monica proposing “stricter green building requirements” is a joke. This “environmentally-friendly” city continues to allow development on top of closed dumpsites with little or no clean-up of the toxic waste. Chemicals from these old dumps have also contaminated municipal drinking water wells on Olympic Boulevard. It’s disgraceful that Santa Monica officials aren’t protecting residents and people working in their city by practicing what they preach.

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