County offers peek at ‘Eco-Build’ program
EDWARDS – Eagle County is looking at adding a few more hoops to the ones builders already need to jump through to get a building permit. But according to proponents, it’s all in the name of efficiency, energy conservation and healthier living environments.Dubbed “EcoBuild,” the initiative is a point-based system aimed at getting builders and homeowners to think more about creating more efficient buildings – or what’s sometimes known as “green building.” While installing things like energy-efficient boilers and building with recycled materials are now a feel-good, practical option, such measures could be mandated if the code is approved by the county commissioners.
County planner Adam Palmer has been working on a draft version of the EcoBuild code, and he presented a “sneak peek” Wednesday night at a meeting of the Green Building Group – an information series sponsored by the Eagle Valley Alliance For Sustainability.Palmer told a packed conference room at Slifer Design in Edwards that his draft code draws on others done in places like Aspen and Portland, Ore. He said while many builders know of the options, they don’t always promote them.”When people go to buy a home, they hear about these things but they can be very technical, and they get talked out of it,” Palmer said. “For the builders, they tend to stick with what they know, and what they know works and is profitable.”Codes requiring some degree of green building would presumably level the playing field, requiring everyone to do something. And while many of the measures to increase efficiency are more costly up front, Palmer said they tend to pay for themselves within a few years’ time.The codeAs proposed, the Eco-Build code would set a benchmark of 50 points required to get a building permit – either for new construction or a remodel involving more than half of existing floor area. If the total points earned exceeds 100, a 25 percent rebate on the price of the building permit kicks in.For larger homes, those over 5,000 square feet, the threshold is higher. Such homes must gain 100 Eco-Build points or be subject to a mitigation fee of $1 per square foot. An example is a 7,000 square-foot house whose owner doesn’t choose to meet the 100-point minimum. They would then be required to pay $7,000 fee before the building permit could be issued. Those larger homes would also be ineligible for the rebate, even if they exceed 100 points.”We’re trying to raise the bar a little while still making these things attainable,” Palmer said.
Matt Scherr, director of the Alliance for Sustainability, told the crowd that the effort to do more along the lines of green building is as important to economics as it is to environment.”The big sale is answering the question people have of ‘What can you save me?’, not ‘How many trees am I saving,'” Scherr said, adding that he thinks the term “green building” has confusing, if not negative, connotations.”Presenting it as simply protecting the environment at all costs is not the correct way to look at it,” Scherr said. “There are economic considerations, and issues related to healthy living spaces and comfort, not just the efficient use of resources.”Scherr said he preferred the “EcoBuild” name to “green building,” and noted the common root of the prefix “eco” to ecology and economy. Palmer said the name was more of a nod to Eagle County and its existing “ECO” transit system.Alex Miller can be reached at 970-949-0555, ext. 615 or at firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado