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:

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