City: Plan green, get permits

DBI says it will accelerate approval of projects that meet environmental criteria

Attention would-be developers: Building a green project can speed up the permitting process.

The Department of Building Inspection, the city agency that issues the necessary permits for all new construction and remodeling, has pledged to give priority to projects that meet national environmental standards.

The directive from Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office is designed to encourage environmentally friendly development, such as buildings that make use of recycled or reclaimed materials, nontoxic paints or carpets made of nonsynthetic materials. The program begins next month. Seven buildings now meet the highest standards, while 29 projects are pending. There are more than 8.3 million square feet of buildings that are registered and qualified as environmentally sensitive in TheCity, officials said.

The new program, which works in conjunction with the Planning Department, will likely speed up the permitting process by several months for those that qualify, said William Strawn, communications manager for DBI.

A national rating system, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, sets the standards for what is considered a “green” building. There are four LEED categories, with “gold” being the second highest.

In San Francisco, new or renovated buildings that meet the “gold” qualification may receive the expedited permit status.

“Expedited LEED gold certification means more energy-efficient buildings for our city. It is a way to attract substantial economic investment, while also implementing socially responsible architecture,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

One of the new green projects is the yet-to-reopen California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, said Mark Westlund, spokesman for The City’s Department of the Environment.

Another green project is the soon-to-open Orchard Garden Hotel, an 86-room hotel on the 400 block of Bush Street.

The hotel’s green features include low organic gas emissions from paint glue, carpets and varnishes, recycled interior finishes, low-flow water, fixtures, increased air ventilation and specially certified wood furniture.

Orchard Garden also uses chemical-free cleaning products, is a tobacco-free environment and uses soy-based inks.

The hotel would be the first in California and San Francisco to meet the national standards, said Trisha Clayton, a spokeswoman for the hotel.

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