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Snapshots from Around the Country

Posted by Mike Collignon

Mar 26, 2014 11:14:00 AM


Green Code Information:
On October 1, 2013, the City of Dallas implemented a green building ordinance, requiring green building practices for all new residential and commercial buildings. Here are the details:

  • All new projects must either: meet the minimum requirements of the Dallas Green Construction Code or be LEED certifiable or be Green Built Texas certifiable or be certifiable under an equivalent green building standard. Projects need only be “certifiable” and not LEED certified nor Green Built Texas certified.
  • Expedited review is available for projects that are at a minimum Dallas Green Construction Code compliant, LEED Silver certifiable or ASHRAE 189.1-2011 certifiable.
  • Projects must reduce water usage by 20%. LEED projects may achieve one point under the Water Use Reduction (20% Reduction) Credit, or projects may use 20% less water than the baseline under the Plumbing Code.
  • Single-family residential may also meet the minimum requirements of ICC 700. Lots must be designed so that at least 70% of the built environment is permeable. Projects must utilize drip irrigation for all “bedding areas” of landscaping.

It should be noted that the minimum requirements of the Dallas Green Construction Code are less stringent than the IgCC, upon which the Dallas Green Code is based. Of the 12 chapters in the IgCC, Dallas kept only eight. The city deleted the energy chapter, choosing to stay with its existing energy code, and also removed any requirements for existing buildings and commissioning.

This is a great show of leadership by a major U.S. city, and a step in the right direction. They could certainly have a stronger energy code, and they could have also improved their existing building stock. The good news is that there is something on the books, which is more than most cities can say. Hopefully, future code cycles will lead to further improvements.


Regulation Information:  
In early November 2013, HB 1181 reappeared during a special session of the Washington State Legislature. The House bill “requires information on home energy efficiency to be included in residential home inspection reports.”  Said report “must include information describing the systems and components of the home that affect energy efficiency.”

This is a very logical step, and one that could/should be adopted everywhere. Since home inspections are usually required for real estate transactions, energy efficiency information (or a full-fledged HERS report) is a great add-on service that home inspectors can provide. It would certainly give the potential buyer a more complete understanding of his or her investment.

There are two other items to note here:

  1. The state’s real estate industry supports this, as it is specifically mentioned in the legislation. We are often critical of the real estate industry’s aversion to disclosure, so it’s only fair we give it credit for backing HB 1181.
  2. This is part of a larger effort by the state, as Washington recently implemented a comprehensive education and licensing system for home inspectors. This tandem approach is something other states should review, as a way to improve their existing housing stock.


Green Incentive Information:
County officials held a meeting in mid-November 2013 to gather public feedback on proposed changes to building codes that apply to unincorporated areas of the county. The modifications include incentives, such as reducing permit fees, for builders who voluntarily build beyond code. The incentives would be based on the IgCC. The county’s building ordinance review committee had already vetted the modifications.

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once said (paraphrasing), “We need to use more carrot and less stick when it comes to sustainability.” This is the perfect example of a “carrot.” A great long-term strategy would be the emulation of a stretch code scenario, where eventually this incentive becomes the norm. This type of forward-thinking practice should be implemented in most jurisdictions.


Green Incentive Information:
The New Jersey State Senate unanimously voted on a bill that would give “priority consideration” to green building project permits. (This legislation was originally proposed by State Senator Robert Gordon in April 2013, but finally passed in mid-November 2013.) The state defines a green building project as:

  • LEED Silver certification
  • Energy Star version 3 qualification
  • 2 globe rating via Green Globes
  • Silver level NGBS certification

County planning boards, municipal agencies and three state departments (Environmental Protection, Transportation and Community Affairs) all fall under the purview of this measure. Additionally, the Commissioner of Community Affairs is directed to conduct a review (every 3rd year) of the program’s existing rating systems, as well as new rating systems, to determine their applicability.

We detailed the reconstruction situation in New Jersey in the June 2013 issue of this magazine. While we don’t endorse any specific green building program/rating system, it’s good to see the state rewarding projects that are going above and beyond code minimums. Hopefully, building owners and/or builders will utilize this path to permit prioritization.

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