Evanston City Council passes green ordinance

Friday, December 11th, 2009

By Rick Prohov

Oct. 26, Evanston City Council voted 8-1 in favor of an ordinance requiring large new commercial buildings to meet the LEED Silver standard of green building. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a comprehensive building rating and certification system maintained by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

The green building ordinance passed last night only applies to new commercial construction over 10,000 square feet, which may not affect any real estate developments for some time. However, a specially appointed committee consisting of local developers, businesses owners and environmental advocates are planning to jointly design a new section of the ordinance that would extend the rating requirement to interior renovations. This section is due to be voted on in December.

Although ordinances have been adopted by nearly 200 municipalities, the vast majority only apply to government buildings and government-financed developments. The City of Chicago’s green building standard fits this category, which was announced by Mayor Daley in 2004.

Evanston joins a small handful of municipalities that have mandated LEED building standards for privately-funded commercial buildings, such as Boulder, Colo., Arlington, Mass., and Pleasanton, Calif. The Evanston Climate Action Plan estimates that commercial buildings emit 58 percent of the city’s emissions.
For applicable construction projects that do not meet LEED Silver, a sliding-scale fine will be levied based on the shortfall of points from the LEED Silver minimum, as well as the total cost of construction.

“Evanston committed to reducing total emissions 13 percent by 2012,” said Paige Finnegan, co-author of the original ordinance and co-chair of the City’s environment board. “This ordinance alone isn’t going to get us there, but it sure shows how firm our City’s commitment is, through the best of times and the worst of times.”

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