Should green become law?
With Truckee’s development code update underway, area experts are debating whether or not green building practices should be required or remain voluntary.
The development code, which sets policy into enforceable ordinances, is being updated by the town on the heals of the general plan update, which created new policy. Some new policies in the General Plan discuss green building, raising the question; should that policy be translated into law?
In a public forum hosted by the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe and the Sierra Green Building Association on Wednesday, proponents of both mandatory green building standards and voluntary incentives for green building argued their cases.
For mandatory green building
“Climate change will affect Truckee especially with projections of a reduction of 75 percent in snow pack in the next 50 years,” said Bob Johnston, an emeritus professor of environmental science and policy at UC Davis, and current chair of the Truckee Planning Commission.
Johnston said the general plan also supports mandatory green building by requiring development to meet community goals.
“Who benefits from a strong mandate? Developers and builders get a higher selling price, tenants get lower energy costs, owners get higher rents, workers get better health, and then there are our children and grandchildren,” Johnston said.
On the fiscal side of the equation, using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, Johnston said the cost of a large project only goes up by one to two percent.
Stephen Witek, president of Sustainable Environment Engineered Design, pointed out the cost of not going green in a mountain environment.
Describing the Squaw Valley Fire Station, Witek said many of the systems meant to conserve energy were improperly designed, or malfunctioning, costing the station thousands of dollars a year.
“They commissioned us at $20,000, but now they’ll be getting back $10,000 a year. Using green building techniques, you are going to get your money back,” Witek said.
For voluntary green building
Truckee’s unique environment does not allow for a one-size-fits-all standard, nor does the constantly changing field of green building lend itself to a hard-and-fast mandate, said Michael Bernard, owner and designer with MHD Studio.
“What is green today may not be green tomorrow,” Bernard said.
Mike Rodarte, a partner in The Rock Garden and TNT Materials, said in reality Truckee building is already green, using techniques like covered entries, insulated foundations, passive solar, and insulated windows.
“We cannot expect the town to know all, we should allow businesses to know their business,” Rodarte said.
Requirements for green building have often been political, rather than scientific, said Ted Owens, a contractor and current Nevada County Supervisor.
“The question is, do we need to make for more regulation and spending?” Owens said. “The council will have to make more decision which means more money spent, spending the town can ill afford after the recent layoffs in the departments that would have to enforce this.”
Owens said that the fast-moving industry of green building is market-driven, not caused by regulations.
“Going green is big industry, it’s demanded by the market place,” Owens said.