Saturday, April 11, 2009

The City Council unanimously voted to adopt Green Building Codes on Monday April 4, 2009. See the story in the Press Herald and listen to MPBN's Maine Things Considered by clicking on the link below and then listening to the Thursday, April 9, 2009 edition.


Portland City Council votes to go green

New city-owned buildings and renovations will be certified for green design and energy efficiency.

By TOM BELL, Staff Writer April 7, 2009

PORTLAND — The City Council voted unanimously Monday to require new city-owned buildings and renovation projects to be certified for energy efficiency and "green" building design.

The ordinance also affects developers of major projects that receive tax breaks or grants from the city, including federal and state grants the city controls.

The ordinance is part of the city's effort to reduce its carbon footprint and combat global warming, said Councilor David Marshall, who chairs the council's Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

Because heating and cooling of buildings generates 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, increasing energy efficiency is the best way to combat global warming, Marshall said.

"In this case, the city is showing leadership, saying we are going to impose this on ourselves, we are going to do the right thing," he said.

The new standards apply to city-owned buildings larger than 5,000 square feet.

To appease the business community, the council adopted an amendment that applies the ordinance only to private projects larger than 10,000 square feet.

The council approved another amendment limiting the ordinance to major renovations, such as when renovation costs are as great as the total value of a property.

Chris O'Neil of the Portland Community Chamber said he was pleased with the changes.

"Hardly anybody is entirely thrilled with it," he said. "But what you've got is palatable, forward-looking and – if indeed sustainable – will be good for all of us."

Robert Hains, a retired landlord who has renovated many buildings, said the goals are laudable but he worries about unintended consequences.

"Some of these things are not going to work to rehab older buildings," he said.

To comply with the ordinance, projects will have to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The program is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

The program recognizes performance in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

Projects are awarded points for specific practices in each area.

Depending on the number of points earned, a building is awarded a "certified," "silver," "gold" or "platinum" ranking.

The city's ordinance requires projects to earn at least a "silver" certification.

The standards address energy efficiency, use of natural lighting, recycling materials, non-polluting carpet and paint, and low-flow water fixtures and toilets.

To gain certification, developers would have to pay from $2,500 to $15,000, depending on the size of the project.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
The City of Portland will use streetlights more efficiently to save money and decrease our carbon emissions. A three-step plan will see its first step implemented through this year's budget by reducing the City's streetlights by 25% we will save $225,000 a year.

After assessing the inventory, Public Services Department will eliminate the lights that are not necessary for safety. Over lit areas can cause problems as bright lights cause more shadows, cause people to squint, and force eyes to readjust when leaving the overly lit area. The streetlight reduction will occur along the arterial streets, away from the high-crime areas near the downtown.

The second step will be to convert all of the 1,400 streetlights the City owns to Light Emitting Diodes, which promises energy savings of 50%. The third step will be to gain ownership of the remaining 4,200 lights from CMP and convert those to LED's as well.

Check out the link to MPBN to hear the Maine Watch episode on the Dark Skies movement and see the Press Herald story below.

MPBN Maine Watch
April 3, 2009 - The Dark Skies Movement


Portland to consider lights-out proposal

Streetlight reductions could save up to $225,000 a year and shrink the city's carbon footprint, officials say.

By TOM BELL, Staff Writer March 30, 2009

PORTLAND — City officials plan to remove hundreds of streetlights in an effort to reduce the city's carbon footprint and save money.

Officials have yet to decide how many lights to remove, but they say the savings would be considerable.

Removing 10 percent of the light fixtures would save the city an estimated $100,000 a year, Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky told the City Council's Finance Committee last Thursday. Removing 25 percent of the fixtures would save as much as $225,000, he said,

Bobinsky said the most likely streets affected would be the city's arterials and collectors, such as Congress Street, Forest and Washington avenues and parts of Stevens Avenue.

He said the city would not remove lights from high-crime areas, downtown or the Old Port.

Officials also hope to reduce the wattage used by some streetlights; use photocell technology to turn off streetlights when they're not needed; and eventually replace mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium lights with energy-saving light-emitting diode streetlights.

The city spends $1.2 million a year on 7,600 streetlights, the vast majority of which are leased from Central Maine Power.

"It's a lot of money," Bobinsky said in an interview, "and certainly, if there are ways we can reduce that, either with energy conservation or reduced lighting, I think that is what we will try to do."

Bobinsky said the city would remove lights in the middle of blocks rather than at intersections. The city would not remove lights on residential streets, he said.

He said his department would work with traffic engineers and the police department to develop a set of standards for deciding which lights will be removed and which ones will remain in place.

In addition, he said, Ameresco Inc., the Massachusetts company that is doing an energy audit on city-owned buildings, would include the 1,400 lights that the city owns as part of that audit.

Ameresco will identify ways in which investments can save the city money over the long term.

Moreover, Bobinsky said, the city has received $684,700 in federal stimulus funds to be used for energy efficiency, and a portion of the money will be used for buying more-efficient lights.

He said the city is working in cooperation with Central Maine Power, which leases light fixtures to the city based on the wattage of each fixture. If the city buys more energy-efficient lights for the CMP fixtures, he said, CMP would be able to lower the city's lease payments.

The initiative was developed in the council's Energy & Environmental Sustainability Committee, said City Councilor David Marshall, the committee's chair.

He said he believes the public would support the measure if the city can demonstrate that it is taking a thoughtful approach and is being considerate of the impact on neighborhoods.

The savings, he said, could translate into more and better services, such as more police officers.

Councilor Daniel Skolnik, who chairs the council's Public Safety Committee, said he is assured that the public would not be compromised, because Bobinsky is leading the effort.

"I don't think he will do anything reckless to save money," he said. "He is somebody who is a careful thinker and planner, and he knows what he's doing."

The effort to reduce energy consumption is consistent with other city polices, said City Council member John Anton.

"We should have done this a long time ago," he said.

Marshall said the initiative is part of a large national movement in which cities are trying to use lighting more efficiently in order to reduce energy usage and cut down on light pollution.

The public is becoming more aware of the need to reduce light pollution, said Martha Sheils, Maine representative of the International Dark-Sky Association.

Exessive lighting not only wastes money, but it also disorients migratory birds and makes it more difficult for people to see the night sky, she said.

But Sheils, a Portland resident, says the issue of lighting is politically difficult for local officials because people have strong feelings about the topic.

"Some people want more streetlights. Some want none," she said.

John Carroll, a spokesman for Central Maine Power, said the utility will cooperate with the city on the initiative. CMP crews would take down the light fixtures, most of which are on CMP poles. If a fixture is at least 15 years old, there is no fee for removing it.

The City Council will likely discuss the issue next month as part of the budget process.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:
Forbes Magazine Ranks Portland as the Nation's Most Livable City

Forbes Magazine gave us props for what we already knew was true. Portland is a great place to live and the arts scene, nightlife, diversity, safety, and job opportunities are some of the reasons. The rating is for cities with a metropolitan region of 500,000 people or more.

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