City sets ‘green’ threshold for its Burlingame housing |

City sets ‘green’ threshold for its Burlingame housing

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen will raise the “green” bar for its Burlingame Ranch affordable housing, though one elected official predicted the higher standard would hike the cost of the project’s first phase by close to $1 million.

The City Council agreed Tuesday that the project should score at least 145 points in the city’s efficient building standards and meet the standards established by the federal Department of Energy’s Building America Program.

“It really is pushing the envelope,” said Councilman Tim Semrau, a builder. “It’s very much above what we did on Parcel D.

“Probably at a minimum, we’re talking about a million dollars if we accept this,” he said. “This is a big leap and I support it, but we ought to talk about how we can afford it.”

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency, which frequently advises the city on environmentally friendly and efficient construction, has recommended Burlingame Ranch meet the Building America standards.

“What it is excellent on, we think, is building performance,” said CORE director Randy Udall. “The benefits are measurable. We know how to rate these homes. Failure is not an option.”

The city’s efficient building standards, or green points, can be accrued through environmentally friendly construction practices, as well as measures aimed at energy efficiency in the finished buildings.

Aspen’s building code requires 70 mandatory points from all affordable housing projects, but the council bumped the requirement up to 130 points at its Parcel D project, which is now under construction next to the Aspen Business Center. For Burlingame Ranch, the threshold will be 145 points, including 110 from measures that will be mandatory. It won’t be entirely the developer’s pick of points.

“Not all green points are equal. That is something we learned from Parcel D,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

There will be some overlap by requiring that the project comply with both sets of standards, according to Udall. The project will essentially hit 110 green points by meeting the Building America standards, he said.

Builders report that homes built to Building America standards use 40 percent to 70 percent less energy than conventional homes, according to CORE.

The council endorsed both standards and directed city staffers to explore paying for the increase in construction costs by using both housing funds and the money from the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, which CORE administrates. The REMP funds come from construction projects that pay fees when they exceed allowable levels of energy consumption established by the city and Pitkin County.

The city is hoping to begin the installation of infrastructure to the Burlingame site this spring at an estimated cost of $8.5 million. The first phase of homes would then be under construction in 2005 and 2006.

The project may include up to 330 homes; the council set 225 homes as the minimum threshold last night. Semrau and Councilwoman Rachel Richards pushed for 275 residences as the minimum.

The city expects to hold a design competition to select the developer of Burlingame. An outline of the first phase calls for 116 units, including 31 lots in the more expensive categories of housing.

The city is estimating the cost of construction, not including the infrastructure, at $23.4 million and revenues from sales at $25.8 million, for a net gain of $2.3 million. A first phase that winds up in the black would be “astounding,” Semrau said.

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