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S.F. Ponders Tough Green Building Code for Private Buildings

San Francisco's Department of Environment will meet Monday with Mayor Gavin Newsom's office to discuss the future of green building code recommendations made by a specially-appointed task force.

Mayor Newsom's Green Building Task Force suggested in June the city adopt progressive green building code requirements that would sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and renovated large-scale commercial and residential buildings beginning in 2008. The panel also made recommendations for mid-scale commercial buildings and residential low-rises that would begin in 2009.

"We've got to meet with the mayor's office to understand what happens next, what the Task Force’s responsibilities are, and to see what life the recommendations take from this date forward," said Laura Rodormer, the Department of Environment’s commercial green building coordinator.

The Task Force, comprised of a broad range of building professionals, focused on the private sector building market. Sustainability requirements for municipal buildings already are in place.

"There is significant leadership potential for the City with these recommendations," the Task Force said in its report. "Our research shows that these proposals are the most progressive in the United State. No other major city addresses both commercial and residential and no city has timetables this aggressive or standards that encompass residential and commercial, large and small, new and alterations."

The recommendations would roll out incrementally between 2008 and 2012. The Task Force drew heavily on LEED standards for new large commercial and high-rise residential buildings because of commercial builder familiarity with the requirements.

The Task Force calls for a LEED Certified standards for new large commercial buildings and renovations beginning in January of 2008. The requirements would increase to LEED Silver in 2009, and LEED Gold by 2012.

High-rise residential buildings taller than 75 feet must be LEED Certified in 2008 and 2009, and LEED Silver by 2010.

The Task Force recommended developers of new mid-size commercial buildings between 5,000 square feet and 25,000 square feet follow up LEED checklist but would not be required to achieve points. Instead, three LEED credits must be achieved in 2009, increasing to seven points in 2012.

The Task Force recommended for all new low-rise residential buildings a voluntary program requiring a completed GreenPoint checklist by Build It Green. No changes for these small residential buildings are recommended in 2008, which will be used as an orientation and education period.

Then in 2009, new mid-size multifamily buildings with five or more units and less than 75-feet tall must complete 25 points from the list, which increases to 50 points in 2010 and to 75 points in 2011 and 2012.

Small residential buildings with one to four units must complete 25 GreenPoints in 2009, 50 GreenPoints in 2010 and 2011, and 75 GreenPoints in 2012.

The Task Force noted that LEED features can cost more to build although expense has declined as the green building market grows. But it recommended incentives to help ease the burden, such as development bonuses, green energy credits, property assessment equalization and fee reductions phased in over five years. Buildings with the highest environmental standards would enjoy the most incentives under the recommendations.

The Task Force estimates the green buildings recommendations would avoid 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and save 220,000 megawatts of electrcity.

Mayor Newsom’s Office is in the process of drafting legislation that will be introduced to the Board of Supervisors, Rodormer said.

"I do think and hope that all or some of the recommendations will be put forward to the Board of Supervisors," Rodormer said. "Then it up to them to vote."

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