Local Policy Best Practices for Healthy and High-Performing Buildings: Part 2

Mike here again. In this short series, I offer up several ideas for how Pittsburgh could craft policies and legislation relating to healthy and high-performing buildings. In Part 1, I explored mandatory green building criteria. Here, I want to take a look at another common method I’ve seen municipalities utilize: expedited review and other indirect incentives

The City of Pittsburgh has already adopted a density bonus for LEED-certified buildings, allowing them to rise 20% higher and include 20% more floor area than other buildings in their zoning districts. Other possible incentives include:

In Chicago, green roofs, PV systems and wind turbines go through a special permit process (Photo: YoChicago)

In Chicago, green roofs, PV systems, and wind turbines go through a special permit process (Photo: YoChicago)

Expedited Permitting: Provide an expedited plan check at no additional charge for buildings that meet LEED criteria, thus erasing one of the primary obstacles (extra delays based on new designs and technologies) to the adoption of green building practices. Chicago,IL expedites the permitting process for projects that incorporate innovative green building practices, including LEED certification. Commercial projects striving for LEED receive their permits within 30 days, while those seeking higher levels of LEED are additionally eligible to receive a partial permit fee waiver of up to $25,000.

Reduced Fees: Doylestown Borough, PA provides a 60% reduction in building permit fees for new commercial and residential construction, additions, and interior remodels earning a minimum of LEED Silver certification through its Green Points Building Incentives Program. Also, Asheville, NC waives building permit fees ($50-$100) for certain energy-efficient technologies and certifications (i.e., ENERGY STAR, solar energy systems, wind turbines, etc.). This can be applied to fees for mixed-use commercial buildings, provided the building includes residential space. The program also reduces plan review fees by 50% for any building seeking LEED certification. These fee waivers are done through rebates.

The City of Pittsburgh has already adopted a density bonus for LEED-certified buildings, allowing them to rise 20% higher and include 20% more floor area than other buildings in their zoning districts.

FAR (Floor Area Ratio) Increases: Portsmouth, NH provides a density bonus of 4.0 FAR for projects that are LEED certifiable as demonstrated by a complete LEED checklist and/or meet appropriate open space requirements.

Reduced Parking Requirements. Consider reducing parking requirements for green projects within specified transportation zones.

Reduced Landscaping Requirements: Reduce landscaping requirements and count green roof space as landscaping/open space in return for achieving green building ratings.

Mayor’s Award: Create an annual award to be given to a project(s) that best exemplifies the goals and strategies of healthy and high-performing buildings.

Professional Development. Require that all, or a specified percentage of, personnel in certain city departments have a LEED accreditation (either LEED AP or LEED Green Associate). St. Paul, MN requires at least five (total) LEED-accredited personnel to be employed within the city departments of planning, economic development, public works, licensing and inspections, environmental protection, and parks and recreation.

Discounts on Environmental Products. In New York, New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) – PA needs something just like this! – offers rebates on certain ENERGY STAR-qualified commercial products. Rebates typically range from $75-$150, but can reach $750 for items such as commercial steam cookers.

Cap and Trade. Start our own city-wide cap and trade program for greenhouse gases. Tokyo did it.

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