Tuesday, September 29, 2009

San Carlos Lagging Behind in Green Efforts

press release from San Carlos Green:

For Immediate Release - September 29, 2009

San Carlos Lagging Behind in Green Efforts
Important Green Building Ordinance may be excluded from Climate Action Plan

As other neighboring cities are adopting green building standards, the City of San Carlos is lagging behind in adopting similar green standards for homes and businesses that improve energy efficiency and water conservation -- and achieve important greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Palo Alto, Brisbane, San Mateo County, Hillsborough, San Jose and 53 other California cities have already adopted green building ordinances -- and more cities such as Redwood City and San Mateo are adopting standards soon. These policies call for minimum green building standards such as increased insulation or water conserving plumbing in new construction. In spite of public support for green building standards, the City of San Carlos is in jeopardy of not including a green building ordinance in their greenhouse gas reduction planning document, known as the San Carlos Climate Action Plan. Most cities are completing climate action plans to guide their efforts to meet emission reduction targets that were established by Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB 32 mandates a 15% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050. San Carlos drafted the Climate Action Plan and the Plan is slated for consideration by the San Carlos City Council on October 12 and 26 at 7pm.

“A green building ordinance is crucial for successfully reducing emissions since nearly half of our emissions are from building, lighting and heating our homes and businesses,” says Kathleen Gallagher, a member of San Carlos Green. “Residents benefit from a green building ordinance since green standards save energy and water costs -- a green home can reduce energy consumption by as much as 65%.” San Carlos Green, a community task force that works to promote sustainable practices, has been promoting green building standards in San Carlos. Several other organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Laureola Association, League of Women Voters, and Community United Church of Christ, also support green building efforts and over 143 people signed a San Carlos Green/Cool Cities petition last year asking the City to immediately begin phasing in a Green Building program.

Instead of adopting a green building program, an alternative that is favored by city staff is to rely on a less flexible State green building requirements for single-family homes anticipated in 2011, and as-yet-undeveloped State requirements for commercial buildings. The problem with this option is that the resulting emissions are too small for San Carlos to meet its emission reduction targets according to San Carlos Green. A recent city report showed that a green building ordinance would result in reducing emissions by 15,106 tons but the state code standards would only reduce emissions by 728 tons. “Many cities choose not to wait for the state to develop a green building code for construction and are now implementing local green building ordinances. Many other cities are developing a Green Building ordinance, including Redwood City, Foster City, and Pacifica,” says Suzanne Emerson, San Carlos Green member and Chair of the city’s Climate Action Plan Subcommittee. “A green building ordinance provides an important opportunity for San Carlos to build energy efficient, water conserving, resource efficient and healthier homes in San Carlos.”

There are excellent cost benefits to a green building ordinance when the cost per ton of emissions is considered. The estimated cost for the green building ordinance is 42 cents per ton of reduced emissions according to a city report. “When you compare the environmental benefit of the green building ordinance in comparison to other programs in the Climate Action Plan that range in costs up to $59 per ton, the green building ordinance is clearly the better economic and environmental choice” says Kathleen Gallagher. A recent study shows that green design results in life cycle savings of 20% of total construction costs -- more than 10 times the initial investment. “There are so many cost effective & inexpensive green choices homeowners can make to design or remodel a home, and, if they plan from the beginning to incorporate green concepts, the cost can be further reduced” says Susan Davis, a local home builder and designer from Spectrum Fine Homes.

“Neighboring cities that have adopted green building ordinances use grant funds to implement green building programs and use free resources provided by Build It Green, a non-profit green building organization. If San Carlos continues to choose to promote itself as a green city, then the city needs to at least adopt a green building ordinance similar to other green communities,” says Ann Iverson, a San Carlos Green member.

The full green building report by San Carlos Green can be found at www.sancarlosgreen.org

About San Carlos Green
San Carlos Green is a citizens’ task force collaborating with the city of San Carlos to explore and promote conservation and resource management best practices for the city, businesses, schools, and citizens in order to inspire a more sustainable community and achieve a positive financial impact. Activities include policy recommendations, community volunteer activities, and educational programs regarding environmental issues such as climate change, waste reduction, energy and water conservation, green building, sustainable landscaping, and urban canopy.

For further information:

Kathleen Gallagher, San Carlos Green, 650-906-1089, kathleen-gallagher@sbcglobal.net

Ann Iverson, San Carlos Green, 650-595-3719, ann@sancarlosgreen.org

Friday, September 18, 2009

San Carlos Green Comments on draft Climate Action Plan

San Carlos Green Comments on draft Climate Action Plan

San Carlos Green has provided comments and information to the Planning Commission in support of adopting and implementing a Green Building ordinance. City Staff has stated that an option for adopting a Green Building ordinance will be included in errata language for consideration at the Planning Commission hearing on the CAP on Monday, September 21, 2009.

Members of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter have also submitted comments in support of a Green Building ordinance.

GPAC member Suzanne Emerson has submitted comments supporting adoption and implementation of a Green Building ordinance, explaining the State "CalGreen" code, recommending the CAP waste diversion goal be increased, and suggesting modified General Plan language to help protect city-owned open space from being sold on short notice.

If you would like to submit written comments in advance of the hearing, your comments can be e-mailed to Deborah Nelson, San Carlos Planning Manager at DNelson@cityofsancarlos.org.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Staff Deletes Green Building Program

Green Building Program Deleted from draft Climate Action Plan

Changes to the draft General Plan Update and a revised version of the Climate Action Plan were posted today with the agenda for the Planning Commission 9/21 hearing. CAP element 3.1b, known as "Option 2" -- the optional language that would have provided for development of a green building program -- has been completely deleted. Text states that "Based on guidance from City Council and the Climate Action Plan Subcommittee, Option 1 will be analyzed in this Plan."

Really? The CAP Subcommittee and General Plan Advisory Committee approved of drafts of the CAP that included both Green Building Option 1 (aka Do Nothing and Hope the State Develops a Robust Green Building Plan) and Option 2 (aka Adopt a Green Building Ordinance Similar to Other Cities). It was intended that City Council decide between the two options, with input from the public.

At the Planning Commission and City Council study sessions, City staff suggested the Commissioners and Council Members "take a look at" the Green Building Options, expressing concern about the cost of such programs. Not one of the City Council members commented on the Green Building options at the study session. So, which council member(s) requested Option 2 be removed, and when? Or was it removed solely by staff, even though it has been strongly supported by the public at every turn?

San Carlos Green intends to request Option 2 be put back in. We encourage you to join us at the Planning Commission hearing Monday, Sept. 21 at 7:00 pm in City Hall.

State "Green Building Code" -- What is it, and why shouldn't we just wait and let the State come up with something?

It would be great to have a robust, state-wide green building code, but we are nowhere close. There has been a lot of talk about the State Green Building Code, but it is not the easiest code to read through and understand the effect of. The 2008 California Green Building Standards Code (24 CCR Part 11) (“CalGreen Code”) currently contains descriptions of many techniques for making construction greener. But very few of these techniques are slated to become mandatory.

CalGreen Code Application Matrix (AM-HCD) (pdf pages 73-74 of the Code linked above) lists the elements applicable to single-family homes and other residential structures under 3 stories.[1] As shown on this Matrix, the requirement that low-flow water fixtures be used or that indoor water use be calculated to be 20% below baseline, and the prohibition against multiple showerheads simultaneously providing one shower with more than the combined maximum federal flow rate, go into effect in July of 2011. A one-and-a-half-page list of other mandatory elements, including low-VOC limits on some products, sealing areas of air leakage between the home and the outside, and covering heat ducts during construction to keep dust out, are slated to go into effect on the effective date of the 2010 round of code updates. The State Building Commission is currently aiming for January of 2011 for the effective date of the 2010 Code updates, so unless the list is modified, this is the list of elements that would become effective in early 2011 for low-rise residential.[2]

The matrix for most other buildings (not including hospitals and public schools) is Application Matrix AM-BSC (pdf pages 66-72 of the code linked above). The list of elements that may become mandatory in the future for this category is the subject of much discussion. The matrix currently only identifies six of the elements as potentially being required, and it is our understanding that most of these are mandated elsewhere in the codes already. As to the rest of the listed elements, according to the Building Standards Commission, the involved government agencies are “looking at their current voluntary regulations to determine which, if any, can be made mandatory, and which others should remain optional.”[3] So it is really a matter of speculation which elements, if any, will become mandatory for commercial and high-rise residential, and when.

The CalGreen Code clearly states that it is not a substitute for the certification requirements of any green building program not adopted by the state BSC, that this code should be viewed as minimal Green Building standards, and that local government entities retain their discretion to exceed these standards.[4] Local governments are provided with a procedure to adopt any of the listed elements as mandatory sooner than the State does[5] – so there is nothing to stop San Carlos from adopting more of these elements as mandatory, and they could do so immediately. However, our understanding from the Building Department staff is that they do not intend to propose for adoption as mandatory any element that is not mandatory state-wide.

[1] E-mail from Jane Taylor, Senior Architect, California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) Dec. 2, 2008.
[2] Telephone conference with Erica of CBSC, Sept. 15, 2009.
[3] E-mail from Jane Taylor.
[4] 24 CCR §§ 101.3, 101.7.
[5] §§ 101.7, 101.7.1; E-mail from Jane Taylor: “local jurisdictions may adopt any or all of the provisions as mandatory, providing they meet the findings requirements.”