This blog is designed to highlight the diversity of views and news stories on urban energy topics that appear daily in the media. They are intended to provoke discussions on how cultural, geographic, political, and institutional influences shape the way energy markets operate and energy policies are made in cities around the world.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Newsom signs strict green building codes into law
Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
(08-05) 04:00 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco took a major step Monday to cement its reputation as the most environmentally progressive city in the United States, as Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law stringent green building codes for new construction and renovations of existing structures in the city.
The new codes focus on water and energy conservation, recycling and reduction of carbon emissions. They apply to most buildings in the city, including residential projects of all sizes, new commercial buildings over a certain size, and renovations of large commercial spaces.
By 2012, city officials estimate the new requirements will reduce carbon dioxide emissions annually by 60,000 tons and save 220,000 megawatt hours of electricity and 100 million gallons of drinking water.
Newsom predicted that the new rules in San Francisco will not be financially burdensome on builders and that they will eventually save money.
"It requires a mandate in order to get people to do what's in their best interests sometimes. It's called change," said Newsom, who also predicted the new standards will have "national reach."
The new codes are to be phased in by 2012. Projects will be evaluated on a point system with credit given for materials used in the building, the location of the building site and water and energy efficiencies.
Large residential and commercial buildings will be evaluated under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Medium and small residential construction will use the GreenPoint rating system, which is less stringent.
The Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco, a major city lobbying organization, gave its support to the new regulations after city leaders agreed to implement them over time.
"We are wading into the pool, not diving into the pool, of green building legislation," said Ken Cleaveland, director of government and public affairs for the association.
He stressed that building and business owners should plan in advance to meet the requirements before seeking city approval for projects.
"We were most concerned about existing businesses in San Francisco and their being hit with a large increase in cost," Cleaveland said, adding that preplanning would result in "virtually no cost increase."
Dan Geiger, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council's Northern California chapter, praised the passage of the codes and predicted positive results on both the health of San Francisco residents and the strength of the city's economy.
"I would say this ordinance puts San Francisco in a leadership position in the country on green building," Geiger said. The Board of Supervisors had previously passed the regulations unanimously.
Despite those predictions, the city's Office of Economic Analysis estimated that the new codes would cost the city between $30 million and $700 million a year in economic output, as it could lead to higher rents and businesses choosing to locate elsewhere.
Newsom called that report inaccurate and predicted the new regulations would actually attract businesses to the city. That opinion was echoed by Phil Williams, an executive at San Mateo-based Webcor Builders, who sat on the city task force on green building that developed the new regulations.
Williams joined Newsom at the signing ceremony, which took place in a South of Market building that has been renovated to the LEED gold standard.
The building was constructed by Matarozzi-Pelsinger Builders Inc. and will be the new headquarters of the firm. Daniel Pelsinger, a co-owner of the firm, said the building will serve as a showpiece of green construction for clients.
"This is a way for us to put our money where our mouth is," Pelsinger said.