A developer friend asked me what I thought of CalGreen, and it got me to thinking:
Could you achieve the same environmental results by implementing regulations that did not require an overhaul of the building code?
Last week, San Francisco passed a regulation requiring owners of nonresidential buildings to conduct Energy Efficiency Audits of their properties every five years, and file Annual Energy Benchmark Summaries for their buildings. The regulation is available here. San Francisco is following the lead of Washington DC and other municipalities mandating disclosure of energy performance.
Could mandatory energy, water use and indoor air quality disclosure, along with rigorous benchmarking be the foundation of an alternative green regulatory approach? An interesting thing that San Francisco did is not only to make the disclosures mandatory, but also to file them with the city, allowing public access to the records. Thus, they can be used by anyone looking to purchase or value the buildings. By mandating disclosure, it incentivizes building efficiency measures, and lets the market do most of the work to force the highest levels of efficiency.
The next piece would be to provide major incentives for infill development, brownfield redevelopment and trandevelopment around mass transit–and charge a premium for infrastructure improvements outside developed areas.
Another component would be to reduce parking requirements, and create parking maximums. The reduced parking capacity would reduce building costs, incentivize public transit usage and make properies built in strong transit hubs more attractive.
Finally, mandate recycling of construction and demolition waste. C & D waste is easy to track and waste management is already highly regulated.
These efforts address most of the green building focus areas–water, waste, energy, site, and indoor air quality. The question is whether this combination of market transparency, incentives and mandates would be as effective in reaching environmental goals as a drafting and implementing a new green building code.