Green laws sprouting up in Eagle Co.
EAGLE COUNTY Building codes used to be a world of fire hazards and plumbing.Now, phrases like “solar power,” “low-flow toilets” and “recycled wood” are creeping into code books, and those environmentally friendly terms are just as important in some towns. As global warming pushes toward the forefront of American anxiety, some communities are encouraging, and even requiring, builders to meet long lists of “green” standards to lower the environmental impact. Both Aspen and Pitkin County have adopted green-building codes.Eagle County governments are figuring out where their place is in the big green building push, and it’s a difficult debate. How do you fairly regulate being green – and should you regulate it at all?Cost vs. benefitWith the looming threat of melting ice caps, builder Jim Guida doesn’t mind the government telling him how environmentally friendly his homes should be. Rules, in this case, would benefit mankind, he said.
“If we left it to each of us individually to help as we see fit, we are doomed,” Guida said.He’s gotten used to meeting the ecoBuild requirements and says the tough thing is still meeting the building codes that have been giving builders a hard time for a much longer time. For the most part, he hasn’t heard too much grumbling about the new green requirements.Then there is Steve Isom, a planner who would rather be encouraged than forced to build green. He sees requirements as damaging to affordable housing and inflicting more up-front cost than some people can afford.”You can meet the requirements, but you’ll spend the money to do it,” Isom said.A few clients wanting to build affordable housing have approached Isom with projects but backed off when they realized the extra money they’d have to invest to meet Eagle County’s ecoBuild standards. They’ve instead gone to consider building in Rifle and New Castle, he said.A better building
Eagle County’s ecoBuild is the most elaborate green building program in the Eagle Valley. It requires builders to rack up a certain number of points off of a long checklist of green building measures that focus on increasing energy efficiency, saving water, using recycled materials and improving indoor air quality. This could mean building close to a bus stop, using wood from beetle-killed pine trees and installing low-flow shower heads, high-efficiency boilers and radon mitigation systems. “Why not make buildings that will last longer, use less materials and create interiors that have less risk of creating a problem for its inhabitants?” said Adam Palmer, Eagle County’s green building specialist. “It’s realizing that construction has community impacts, not just for the occupants, but environmental and long-term impacts as well.”Future developments in Avon’s West Town Center must meet Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards for certification. Avon leaders believe that’s not only good for the environment, but future developers will even see being LEED-certified as a marketing tool.”A lot of progressive developers, it becomes a marketing tool for them – they want to be the development that’s LEED-certified,” said Eric Heidemann, community development director.Starting up
Vail definitely wants to develop a green building program – it just doesn’t know what it will look like yet. The town has hired a consultant to analyze the different programs out there and help the council decide how tough the program should be, said Bill Carlson, the environmental health officer. “We want to start slow, start with something not as complex and with reasonable costs,” Carlson said. “It’s part of our mission and our values – to be good stewards of the environment.”The town of Eagle wants to jump on as well – it’s just waiting for the National Association of Home Builders to release its National Green Building Standard, which should be finished this year, said building official Bob Kohrmann.”There are too many options out there, so we want to take this standard and run with it,” Kohrmann said. Kohrmann would rather use incentives as opposed to requiring builders to be green.”I don’t want to add construction costs that people can’t afford,” Kohrmann said.
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