Green by force or choice?
EAGLE COUNTY Eagle Countys booming construction industry may soon be seeing green.County officials want to make changes to their building codes to encourage more environmentally friendly construction. But rather than just encouraging change with building permit discounts, the commissioners also are considering penalizing builders for not changing by requiring them to pay more.I definitely want to raise the bar, said Commissioner Arn Menconi, during a meeting on Tuesday. Id like some regulations.Similar programs already are in place in Pitkin County and the town of Basalt. The programs in both places essentially are mandatory: Anyone building homes of a certain size must comply with guidelines or pay into a fund. In Pitkin County, all homes must meet at least some energy efficiency guidelines to be approved.If adopted, Eagle Countys building codes would affect new homes and commercial buildings built in the communities of Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Wolcott, and other parts of unincorporated Eagle County.
Some local developers are voluntarily building more energy efficient buildings. East West Partners plans to seek whats called LEED certification for the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, a luxury hotel planned for a 19-acre site along the Eagle River in Avon. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, requires builders to meet several guidelines, such as using recycled building materials or installing energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.While green buildings have a reputation for being more expensive, making the hotel more environmentally friendly will cost the company only about 3 percent more, said East West Partners Chuck Madison. And proponents argue the buildings energy costs will be lower, making the upfront sticker shock worth it. The concept of building greener buildings has been around for a while, but finding architects, contractors and engineers who understand how to do it can be difficult, time-consuming and thus, more expensive, he said.The design costs are higher because of the time spent on it, Madison said. It just takes time and they are not experienced in doing it.It would be better to encourage developers to build environmentally friendly buildings, rather than making it a requirement, Madison said. However, voluntary programs havent had the greatest success, said Adam Palmer, a county planner. Palmer, who once worked for a local environmental advocacy group, said the town of Vails green building code was snuffed because few builders wanted to participate. Building permit fees brought in $1.43 million to the countys coffers in 2004. About 75 percent of last years building permits were for new construction, Palmer said. Adopting a green building program of only incentives could reduce the countys building permit revenue. Adopting a code that offers incentives and penalties, however, could keep that revenue stable, Palmer said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado