Aspen sustainable development goals set high bar for the state |

Aspen sustainable development goals set high bar for the state

Major moves to meet the city’s zero emission goals by 2050

Aspen continues setting the barometer extraordinarily high for sustainable development.

The city now has the state’s most stringent sustainable building codes for new residential homes. Last month, the City Council adopted 49 amendments to the International Building Code that will go into effect April 1 — no joke.

These changes are directly related to the city’s initiative to reduce emissions by 63% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. The city has already made significant steps in greenhouse-gas emissions reduction within the city of Aspen, which have been reduced by 23% in the past five years.

Screenshot of emission reduction goals.

A January 2022 report published by the city on 2020 greenhouse gas emissions did note that the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in reducing emissions, particularly in the transportation and commercial energy sectors.

Now, all new builds and remodels will be subject to the state’s toughest sustainable standards. The biggest residential changes reflect new building envelope insulation requirements, triple-pane window requirements, and a limitation on windows to allow for a maximum of 30% of the surface area per wall.

There is also a performance-based option in which developers have more flexibility in how to achieve the same standards within certain parameters.

Especially intriguing is the first-time cap on residential outdoor energy usage. The new limitations are set at 200 million BTU, per year, per home. What does this mean? Many of the large homes won’t just need to offset their carbon emissions; they will now be capped.

The Renewable Energy Mitigation Program does not apply to the square footage of the home, just specific energy uses. Pools, spas, snowmelt, heat tape, exterior heaters, and gas fireplaces all must be offset with renewable energy, or there is an equivalent payment option that homeowners will need to pay back to the city.

These changes come within months of the city’s December 2021 moratorium on the issuance of residential building permits required for certain demolition, alteration, and/or construction processes. The December 2021 moratorium was enacted to help the city better understand and study the rapid pace of Aspen’s residential building, they said, and lasted roughly eight months.

This pause allowed for the City Council, staff, and the community to fully consider the impacts of development, including stressors put on the built environment such as pace and scale of residential development, affordable housing development and mitigation, development procedures within the Land Use Code including demolition, construction and environmental impacts of development, and development impacts on utilities and waste.

Screenshot of Aspen environmental goals.

The results of the study led to the determination that there will now only be only six general-purpose residential demolition allotments per year. There will also be an additional two allotments available for long-time locals.

Aspen’s buildings account for 57% of the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions, and this will help the city achieve its goal towards net zero greenhouse-gas emissions in 2050, city officials said.

Essential to any successful roll-out is communication and awareness. The city will host two informational and educations sessions March 21 and 22 at City Hall for the public.