Building a future of sustainability

Redwood City — Officials are looking to adopt green building requirements that would put them in line with several other cities in San Mateo County.

On Oct. 26, the City Council will hold a public hearing on its proposed green building ordinance, which would impact new residential and commercial construction, according to staff.Under the ordinance, construction projects would be required to have environmentally friendly elements, which could include low-flow toilets, solar panels, proximity to shops and transit, and nontoxic paints.

Like most of the green building programs in the Bay Area, Redwood City proposes to use an environmental rating system developed by the Berkeley-based nonprofit Build It Green.

The organization has created a list of 200 building elements, awarding points based on how environmentally conscious the item is in order to determine the energy efficiency of a project.

Building the project within a half-mile of a major public transportation stop would give it two points, for example. If the layout improves natural cooling, that’s worth 10 points.

Redwood City will require each new project to obtain a minimum of 50 points through inspection, said John LaTorra, Redwood City’s building inspection manager.

That’s comparable to the residential baseline in the green building ordinance currently being considered by San Mateo city officials, along with a proposed green building program for Daly City. San Francisco is also using the 50-point minimum for residential buildings, although that will go up to 75 points in 2011.

Offering minimum requirements gives developers flexibility, LaTorra said.

Ted Huang, a sustainability engineer with San Mateo-based Webcor Builders, said many green materials, such as appliances or lighting, cost more because they are not widely used. To bring the price down, consumers need to be more educated on the benefits of green buildings, such as lower utility bills. Mandating environmentally conscious elements is also a step in the right direction, he said.

“Making something required will help drive the change,” Huang said.

One way that Redwood City’s green building program will be different from other Peninsula cities is that it will have its own inspectors certified to review each project, which will save developers money.

For other cities, certified rate consultants have to be hired by a developer to review a project.

“We’re already there [so] we might as well look at green building, too,” LaTorra said. “It saves money and, more importantly, it saves time.”

He said four city inspectors are already certified and he expects more to be trained.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

Green scene

Under Build it Green’s GreenPoint Rated system, projects earn points for employing environmentally conscious guidelines. It’s used by numerous municipalities in the Bay Area and state.

Built within a half-mile of a major public transit stop: 2
Close to school, grocery store, other services: 2+
High-efficiency air conditioning, refrigerants: 1
60 percent of power needs come from solar panels: 12
90 percent of power needs come from solar panels: 18
75 percent of floor insulation from recycled content: 1
High-efficiency toilets: 4
Rainwater-harvesting system installed: 1+
Interior paints contain no volatile organic compounds: 3
80 percent of construction waste is recycled or reused: 4
Walkway and driveway made of recycled materials: 1

Source: Build It Green

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