A Tale of Green Cities

chicago city hall roofAs cities across the US become more aware of the environmental impact development has on energy use and local water quality, many cities have begun to adopt strategies to mitigate these ecological concerns and help the environment.

–>Santa Monica, California has adopted green building codes that address storm water runoff, mandates bicycle storage, carpool spaces, storage space for recyclable materials, requires the recycling of construction material, and the installation of water efficient fixtures among other environmentally friendly, low cost building codes.

–>Montgomery County, Maryland has voted unanimously to adopt the LEED standard for all new multifamily residences greater than 4 stories, commercial buildings, and county buildings. This legislation will go into effect this November and mandates energy efficiency, indoor air quality, site selection, water use, and other environmental protections.

–>Chapel Hill, North Carolina passed an ordinance in 1997 that required town owned buildings to use 30% less energy than required by the North Carolina building codes. Accepted strategies include solar orientation, daylighting, renewable heating resources, water conservation, appropriate landscaping, energy efficient lighting, and the use of building materials and colors to lower cooling load.

More cities than we could possibly profile here have adopted environmentally conscious building codes, and many of them have adopted comprehensive green building strategies such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. From energy and water efficiency to alternative transportation, from site selection to the beautification of public spaces, cities are learning how to make themselves allies of the landscape instead of adversaries. Even Chicago’s city hall, pictured above, incorporates a insulating green roof.

The city of College Park is not unique in its lack of Green Buildings codes, but it’s foreseeable that the city (or county) might jump on the bandwagon if the influx of CP development continues as we expect it will. Certainly the university can do more in this area and join a growing list of universities that have done the same. In the past we’ve suggested that the East Campus Development initiative incorporate some form of green building standards and we reported on the NOAA building in UMD’s research park that will be LEED certified.

Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling (if it hasn’t already):

  • Require demolitions, renovations, and new construction to recycle 60%+ of their construction waste
  • Mandate the use of low-flow faucets in new construction and renovations
  • Encourage the installation of waterless urinals
  • Relax parking space requirements for multifamily construction
  • Provide funding for covered bicycle parking facilities
  • Organize a renewable energy credit purchasing program for residents of College Park

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “A Tale of Green Cities”

  1. In the fall of 2006 I attended a regional Green Building Conference at University College’s Inn and Conference Center. The conference was sold out with about 350 attendees. The Inn and Conference Center is the only hotel in the Metropolitan area that is LEED certified.

  2. Thank you for this article. Insisting on greener approaches to construction is needed throughout the country. As a new member of the County Council, I am working with several colleagues and with County agencies to develop both “green building” requirements and to push more natural, “low impact development” stormwater management. As the article notes, Montgomery County (and not noted, the District of Columbia) has developed green building requirements. We will be looking at Montgomery’s legislation, DC’s and other jurisdictions as we develop it for Prince George’s County. Other energy efficiency and stormwater initiatives are in the works as well.

  3. A possible proposal could be to provide some sort of incentive for a builder that decides to go “green”. Many different green building strategies are more expensive than traditional building, and many construction firms shy away from it, thinking that the long-term benefits of such planning are not worth the initial investment. If anything, perhaps a requirement of newer development should incorporate some sort of “green plan” along with the traditional view, and the developer could be required to use aspects of it in the final project. I don’t know if that would work, I’m not a policy guy, just a humble scientist.

  4. At the recent conference at the Inn and Conference Center large and not so large developers said that the upfront cost was 5 percent or less and that the green building techniques reduced operating costs enough over time to make them a good economic decision. Soon these techniques will be written into the BOCA codes so that they will be easier to get building inspectors to approve.

  5. For some products, especially waterless urinals, it is very hard to get the inspectors approval unless they are explicitly laid out in the local building codes. Building inspectors unfamiliar with the technology have a hard time believing that they can be sanitary.

    One manufacturer told me a story about how, in a new construction, the property owner had to install all of the plumbing for regular urinals where he was putting waterless urinals in. The township just did not believe that they were sanitary, and wanted to make sure that regular urinals could be installed once the waterless ones failed. The waterless urinals are still working today.

Comments are closed.