Sunday, May 8, 2011

Scottsdale expanding green-building efforts to commercial sector

Imagine a city in which commercial developers embrace green building as enthusiastically as the single-family residential sector does.

That's the goal of an effort to make Scottsdale's commercial green-building program more inviting to developers of commercial and multifamily projects in Scottsdale.

The updated program should be ready to go in June.

The program encourages a "whole systems" approach through design and construction techniques to minimize environmental impact and reduce energy consumption.

Since the inception of its residential program in 1998, the city has issued more than 1,250 green permits. However, only about 40 have been issued in the commercial and multifamily program, which was established in 2001.

To help boost that number, the city is offering an alternative way for buildings to become green-certified by adopting the International Green Construction Code.

"What we wanted to find was a method that would allow people to do more green building without having to use the LEED system, that would be a more streamlined and less expensive system but would still give them a green certificate of occupancy, which the real-estate market is recognizing as value right now," said Tim Conner, manager of the city's Office of Environmental Initiatives.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized green-building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The city has long been recognized as a leader in municipal green building, and many of its buildings are certified LEED Gold or Platinum.

Cost difference on decline

The cost difference between green and conventional building is decreasing, said Jimmy Leung, chairman of the city's Environmental Quality Advisory Board.

"There is this perception undoubtedly that green is more expensive, but I think that is really going down because we're on a learning curve," he said. "Fire Station No. 2 (downtown) is a perfect example. They stayed in their budget . . . but they exceeded their green level because of wise choices."

One of the city's newest fire stations, Station 8, which is being built at Cactus Road and 96th Street, also is employing green-building principles.

Scottsdale already features some high-profile commercial developments that are green, such as the Optima Camelview Village condominium complex at Scottsdale Road and Rancho Vista Drive.

Optima, the developer, spent more on its green roof system than if it had gone with a conventional roof, but the "environmental and aesthetic benefits far outweigh the additional costs," said David Hovey Sr., Optima's president and owner.

The city is in the process of adopting the International Green Construction Code as its requirement for a commercial green certificate of occupancy, Conner said.

"We already use an international construction code, and now we're adopting a component for our voluntary green-construction program," he said.

The city's program is an alternative to LEED, which requires third-party certification that normally takes six months to a year after a project is completed, Conner said. With the city program, developers can obtain a green certificate of occupancy immediately after completion, he said.

Unlike the LEED program, the international code can be tailored to fit Scottsdale's natural environment, Leung said.

"A lot of the stuff that comes from the U.S. Green Building Council is good ideas for green building but not necessarily the best ones for Arizona and the desert environment," he said. "There are things that are unique to our environment that we need to encourage, such as water conservation and passive solar."

In passive-solar building design, windows, walls and floors are made to collect, store and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer.

Anthony Floyd, senior green-building consultant with the city, said the city's current green rating checklist is dated. "The international code promotes uniformity and consistency from city to city," he said.

Interest growing

A growing number of builders and developers are interested in incorporating green construction in their projects, said Halleh Landon, vice president of Energy Systems Design, a Scottsdale engineering consulting firm.

"Not only are owners more aware that there are small changes that can be made to be more energy-efficient and mindful of the environment, they want to take advantage of rebates, credits and save on an annual basis," she said.

Building green doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend tons of money on fancy equipment or fixtures, Halleh said.

"It can be as simple as preserving the surroundings, saving water by using low-flow plumbing fixtures and planting indigenous plants," she said. "(Also) purchasing materials that are produced or manufactured nearby (to) reduce the carbon footprint and support local businesses."

The General Dynamics C4 Systems campus in south Scottsdale has initiated numerous green-conversion projects. One of its recent projects involved replacing nearly 9 acres of turf with xeriscape, or landscaping to reduce the use of water.

"The results were decreased water consumption by approximately 12 million gallons of water and reduced associated maintenance costs," said Patrick Okamura, facilities manager at the campus.

Other green projects at General Dynamics include construction practices that divert building debris from local landfills and reusing materials wherever possible.

by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic Apr. 21, 2011 05:01 PM

Scottsdale expanding green-building efforts to commercial sector

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