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Law and (Sustainable) Order

Clean energy, water conservation and carbon emission reduction efforts continue to be at the top of lawmakers’ minds.

It was a very busy second quarter of 2023 in terms of state legislation related to sustainability in construction. As we headed into the third quarter, cities and states nationwide awaited the impacts of decisions reached over the summer.

Greywater in Florida

Florida’s Statute 403.892 offers density incentives to developers and home builders who use residential greywater technologies. The statute offers a 25 percent density bonus to developers or home builders if at least 75 percent of a proposed or existing development will have a greywater system installed, or a 35 percent bonus if 100 percent of a proposed or existing development will have a greywater system installed.

greywater

Outdoor watering restrictions have led to the use of greywater for irrigation purposes in cities and new subdivisions nationwide. Credit:  iStock/Olga Korica


To qualify, the following five conditions must be met:

  • The proposed or existing development must have at least 25 detached single-family residential homes or 25 multifamily dwelling units, which may include apartments.
  • Each single-family residence will have its own residential greywater system dedicated for its use. Each residence forming part of a multifamily project will be serviced by its own residential greywater system dedicated for its use, or by a master greywater collection and reuse system for the entire project.
  • The developer or home builder has submitted a manufacturer’s warranty or data providing reasonable assurance that the residential greywater system will function as designed and includes an estimate of anticipated potable water savings for each system.
  • The developer or homebuilder has submitted a manufacturer’s warranty or data providing reasonable assurance that the residential greywater system will function as designed and includes an estimate of anticipated potable water savings for each system.
  • An operation and maintenance manual for the greywater system will be supplied to the initial homeowner of each home, including a method of contacting the installer or manufacturer and shall include directions to the residential homeowner that the manual shall remain with the residence throughout the life cycle of the system.

Greywater system proof of purchase must be provided within 180 days after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for single-family residential homes that are either detached or multifamily projects. However, multifamily projects more than five stories in height are not eligible for this incentive.

EV Charging in Illinois

The Electric Vehicle Charging Act was recently signed by Gov. Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker, creating minimum requirements for newly constructed single-family and small multifamily residences (2-4 units) to be equipped with at least one electric vehicle (EV)-capable parking space for each residential unit that has dedicated parking.

EV Illinois

Illinois’ forthcoming Electric Vehicle Charging Act requires newly constructed single-family and small multifamily residences to be equipped with at least one electric vehicle-capable parking space per dedicated unit. Credit:  iStock/PhonlomaiPhoto


The effective date of the bill is Jan. 1, 2024. However, affordable housing units have a two-year waiver from their requirement of a minimum of 40 percent of their parking slots EV-capable, with the minimum space requirement increasing to 50 percent after 5 years and 70 percent after 10 years of the bill’s passage.

For a new, large multifamily residential building or a large multifamily residential building being renovated by a developer converting the property to an association, those property types will be required to have 100 percent of their total parking spaces EV-capable starting with permits issued on or around April 1, 2024.

For property conversions, “no EV-capable or EV-ready mandate shall apply if it would necessitate the developer having to excavate an existing surface lot or other parking facility in order to retrofit the parking lot or facility with the necessary conduit and wiring.”

Colorado: On a Sustainability Mission

The most recent legislative session in Colorado saw a number of bills passed that will improve sustainability in the state:

Sustainable Deserts in Phoenix

In mid-June, the Phoenix City Council approved a “Sustainable Desert Development Policy.” The new conservation guidelines apply to properties applying for rezoning. The stipulations include regulations on non-functional turf, a mandate to meet EPA WaterSense for Homes 2.0 or similar certification, planting of drought-tolerant and native plants, outdoor irrigation standards, enhanced standards for swimming pools, and more.

mother natures landscaping

Arizona’s “Sustainable Desert Development Policy” calls for planting of drought-tolerant and native plants, outdoor irrigation standards, enhanced standards for swimming pools, and more. Credit:  iStock/adamkaz


The City’s Planning and Development Department is now tasked with rolling out these draft stipulations and collaborating with applicants about how, when, and where they should be utilized.

The new policy was based on the city’s work with the Verdin development, a residential neighborhood in North Phoenix that incorporated water conservation measures to the tune of 55 million fewer gallons of water annually (compared to a standard subdivision). The new regulations are also a natural outcome of the City Council’s decision to leave up to 50,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead annually for a 3-year-period.

To make that a reality, officials had to do something to conserve water. The City is also investing in a direct potable reuse plant, which is aiming to recycle almost 60 million gallons of water each day.  

Finally, the City is also developing a strategy to stabilize and address its water challenges in the short and long-term. It wisely recognizes that the Colorado River is a “declining river system” and that “the long-term outlook for Colorado River supplies for Phoenix is still not stable.”

Electrification in Oak Park

The Village of Oak Park in Illinois has become the first municipality in the Midwest to pass an electrification ordinance for all new construction. New residential buildings shall be designed and constructed as follows:

  • The source of energy for the building shall be all electric and the source of energy shall not be fossil fuels. Energy from fossil fuels may be provided by generators for emergency backup power.
  • All heating and air conditioning shall be provided by cold climate air source or ground source heat pumps.
  • A building shall contain an energy recovery ventilation system.
  • A building design shall include Manuals J and S calculations, or an equivalent design, by a licensed design professional.
  • All refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers shall be Energy Star certified.
  • Energy for any clothes dryer shall be provided by an electric heat pump.
  • A building shall contain at least one level 2 electric vehicle charging station at one parking location if a building contains a parking space/garage.
  • Directly piped exterior gas fire pits and gas cooking grills whose source of energy are fossil fuels are prohibited. 

The Village Board also passed an ordinance approving the unamended 2021 IECC, and expressed an interest in adopting the Illinois Stretch Energy Code once it is finalized. This is part of its Climate Ready Oak Park initiative, with a goal to achieve community-wide net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Both ordinances go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

solar in illinois

The Village of Oak Park, Ill., is the first municipality in the Midwest to require new residential buildings to be all electric, with energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources. Credit: iStock/nattrass


Alabama Stymies Electrification

Alabama: SB 40 was introduced in early March, and it is quite an interesting attempt to prohibit electrification steps. It aims to prohibit a city, county or agency from requiring the installation of “latent, non-operable features in a residential structure.”

This encompasses “any technology, appliance, electrical circuit, wiring, plumbing, gas tubing, framing, or other item, installed in or connected to a residential structure, that will not be placed in a state of active operation or that will not be utilized by the homeowner at the time of the residential structure’s completion.”

There are many witty and/or sarcastic things that could be written about this effort to fight against the tidal wave that is renewable energy, but instead it seems most apropos to link to this evisceration of the bill and the Homebuilders Association of Alabama from the Executive Director of Energy Alabama.

Ironically, this bill passed the House and the Senate two days before Earth Day. The Governor would later sign the bill into law.