August 5, 2008

San Francisco Takes The LEED (And GreenPoint) On Building Codes

"San Francisco took a major step Monday to cement its reputation as the most environmentally progressive city in the United States, as Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law stringent green building codes for new construction and renovations of existing structures in the city.

The new codes focus on water and energy conservation, recycling and reduction of carbon emissions. They apply to most buildings in the city, including residential projects of all sizes, new commercial buildings over a certain size, and renovations of large commercial spaces."

"The new codes are to be phased in by 2012. Projects will be evaluated on a point system with credit given for materials used in the building, the location of the building site and water and energy efficiencies.

Large residential and commercial buildings will be evaluated under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Medium and small residential construction will use the GreenPoint rating system, which is less stringent."

Newsom signs strict green building codes into law [SocketSite]
JustQuotes: More Green For Greener Building Codes In San Francisco [SocketSite]

First Published: August 5, 2008 7:45 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I think green building is nice, but don't trust anything Gavin does in this regard. He panders too much to do anything like this for the right reasons. It will likely just make everything more expensive. Who exactly does SF want to stay here?

Posted by: sjm at August 5, 2008 8:43 AM

More government regulation. Great.

Posted by: Satchel at August 5, 2008 8:51 AM

Total idiocy.

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at August 5, 2008 9:00 AM

I can understand why people complain about government regulation, but try and imagine where we would be in terms of housing without the building codes. They are not perfect, by any means, but they are a whole lot better then not having them. If anyone could build anything anytime, the city would be a nightmare of fire and safety hazards. I can think of a number of regulations that have benefited everyone, like phazing out lead paint and asbestos, to earthquake retrofitting of unreinforced brick buildings, to proper sewer and waste water systems.

Go to a place where there is absolutely no government regulation, like Lagos, Nigeria, and tell me if you prefer that to what we have here?

Moving the codes in a greener direction is an excellent idea, there are many new building techniques, like advanced framing that use engineered I beam wall studs spaced further apart in interior load bearing walls that would significantly reduce the entire industry's demand for wood products, a technique widely known but not widely used because people have no incentive to change their building practices absent some sort of shove - like a change in the building code that gives green points for a technique that saves resources as well as money.

This is good news.

Posted by: Eoral at August 5, 2008 9:07 AM

I see Gavin Noisome roll out of his oldschool highrise at Green & Leavenworth - his driver routinely leaves the black towncar running on the corner awaiting for his Highness to emerge.

How green is his living on Green?

He should lead by example and move into a yurt.

Preferably tomorrow and somewhere on the East Coast.

Posted by: Debtpocalypse at August 5, 2008 10:01 AM

Regulation like this is needed. There is almost no incentive for a builder to save buyers money on utility bills if it increases construction costs even one penny. I'd be very surprised if many buyers value energy efficiency when calculating monthly payments. If this legislation was written properly then it should be good for people who buy property to live in whether they like it or not.

Posted by: Gdog at August 5, 2008 11:17 AM

Regulation like this is needed. There is almost no incentive for a builder to save buyers money on utility bills if it increases construction costs even one penny.

I agree. There are some parts of California (think Central Valley), where it should be illegal to build a home without a geothermal heat pump for heating and cooling. California has some of the lowest per capita energy consumption numbers in the US, and it ain't because we all sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya...

Posted by: EBGuy at August 5, 2008 11:50 AM

California has some of the lowest per capita energy consumption numbers in the US, and it ain't because we all sit around the campfire singing Kumbaya...

And even though the per capita numbers are as positive as you state, there's a need for this sort of thing to be mandated?

The problem with this is that it basically contributes to the "mess" that is SF's housing. I own a building (well, the bank owns it, I just give them my paycheck every month), and this does NOT make me want to ever do any renovations on it. Why? I don't care what the energy consumption of the building is, I care what my return on investment is.

All this does is leads to old buildings that don't get renovated, ever, and makes it harder to get into owning your own property. Who can afford to buy as it is, let alone with renovation costs that will be substantially more expensive than they already are? Good luck with that one.

Posted by: Brian at August 5, 2008 3:55 PM

"there's a need for this sort of thing to be mandated?'

Yes, because if it is not mandated people won't do it. You yourself said that you won't do renovation on your own since you perceive that it negatively affects your ROI. In truth it negatively impacts your cash flow, while deferring maintenance is what negatively impacts your ROI.

It does not lead to buildings that never get renovated. That is en excuse that lazy and cheap landlords/owners make often, it simply is not true. Lots of people can afford property in San Francisco, thats why people are buying, albeit at the moment not as briskly as before, nevertheless product is still moving. Renovation costs are not always substantially more expense when done in an environmentally responsible manner. For example a gallon of Kelly Moore low VOC EnvirCcote paint is about $2 cheaper then the regular stuff. Be green, save green.

Building owners who put money into their properties make money.

Posted by: Eoral at August 5, 2008 5:06 PM

Thanks for the lecture Eoral. Being green seems to be more about marketing to help companies make money rather than saving the planet. I still think it is rather arrogant to think that we are the cause (and solution) to all that is wrong in the world. People do a good job regulating themselves here. We certainly don't have the air quality they do in China. This is just more government regulation and they suck at trying to regulate anything. It just means more bureaucracy and another few high-paying jobs to "score" your project's greenness. Bologna.

Posted by: sjm at August 5, 2008 5:23 PM

@sjm you can't be serious! Our good air quality is due to self regulation? Have you never heard of the Clear Air Act, the Air Resources Board, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.... Do you really think the air here would be this clean if industry was left to regulate themselves?

Posted by: holycow! at August 5, 2008 5:30 PM

I understand people have been conditioned to believe that "Government" is the problem. Its not. The problem is passive citizens who don't get up and get to work.

No one suggest we are the cause or solution to everything wrong in the world. But we can live better. Self regulation does not work. There will always be enough people who will thumb their noses at it to defeat its entire purpose. That is why we have things like the building codes: to ensure basic standards that benefit the community i.e. you and me.

We do not have the air quality issues they have in developing countries like China because of regulation. Laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, as well as countless state and local government ordinances forced change. There was a time before those, and the air and water ways were just as filthy as any you will find in Beijing or Shanghai. But mandated government regulation changed that for us for the better.

People are going to make money as we "Green" our building codes, so what of it? Altruism will not make enough people insulate their homes, but building codes will. Jobs will be created, energy saved, money made, and less carbon produced. I see no problem with any of that.

Posted by: Eoral at August 5, 2008 5:35 PM

I still don't think that more regulation helps. It think real free markets work and those that have the best solutions are rewarded accordingly. You make good points about clean air act, etc, but I still don't think our best interest is at heart with this regulation. At least you guys or gals (is there a sexual part to a holy cow?) are happy. That ought to do the trick.

Posted by: sjm at August 5, 2008 6:32 PM

I see your point of view, its just that I have never seen a free market, just markets stacked in different ways.

Posted by: Eoral at August 6, 2008 12:23 AM

Yes, because if it is not mandated people won't do it. You yourself said that you won't do renovation on your own since you perceive that it negatively affects your ROI. In truth it negatively impacts your cash flow, while deferring maintenance is what negatively impacts your ROI.

How do you figure? I have to get the tenant out (which is painfully expensive in SF), then I have to pay more money than I otherwise would have chosen to. Not sure how you can rationalize this as negatively impacting my ROI.

It does not lead to buildings that never get renovated. That is en excuse that lazy and cheap landlords/owners make often, it simply is not true. Lots of people can afford property in San Francisco, thats why people are buying, albeit at the moment not as briskly as before, nevertheless product is still moving. Renovation costs are not always substantially more expense when done in an environmentally responsible manner. For example a gallon of Kelly Moore low VOC EnvirCcote paint is about $2 cheaper then the regular stuff. Be green, save green.

Building owners who put money into their properties make money.

Way to cite one of the least expensive aspects of "renovating" as your functional example. Painting costs are negligible when compared to using the high end LEED certified building materials. Never mind that a reasonably "green" alternative, which would be a BIG improvement over what's likely already there, will no longer be allowed.

Just out of curiosity, do you own any rental properties in the city? It's REALLY easy to spend someone else's money. It's a whole different story when it is your own.

I'm in the process of renovating a unit right now. Re-doing most of the plumbing, I made concrete counter tops. I added all new energy efficient appliances (stove, fridge, dishwasher, microwave, new water heater). Lovely little 13 or 15 watt CFL light bulbs everywhere, ceiling fans in more than one room, and the furnace is getting replaced later this year.

So, if in 5 years I had to spend a multiple of what I spent now to do the same work, would I do it? Absolutely not. It doesn't make financial sense. You see, rental properties are not a platform for me to make a political or environmental statement, they're a platform for me to earn a return on my money.

Posted by: Brian at August 6, 2008 11:33 AM

Good news Brian - The basic low-cost items you listed would in fact be helpful toward meeting the new standards. Even better, in line with your thread: The new requirements don't apply to renovations under 25,000 sf.

Posted by: Herve_Villechaise at August 7, 2008 1:24 PM

This is great news. The dismissive and negative comments seen here are a pathetic testimony to how uninformed and unthinking so many Americans are. These same yahoos would be the same ones worked up about removing lead from gasoline several decades ago, or government action to reduce smog. Mindless cries of "more government regulation" exist as slogans preempting thought, stock reflex answers utterly irrelevant to solving problems. Human causes problems require human action if we're to improve as a society. If that action involves the government, so be it. The "free market" is not a magical unicorn that will solve all of our problems.

Posted by: Eric at August 22, 2012 3:20 PM

An old thread revived. Yesterday an EPA rule on Coal pollution was struck down by the US court:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/21/usa-epa-ruling-idUSL2E8JL56020120821

It's an ongoing battle. An improvement is not a given.

Posted by: lol at August 22, 2012 3:56 PM

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