Judging by the number of folks who braved the weather for the Downtown Forum, sustainable design is a popular topic for NDDC stakeholders. My sense is that the discussion last week was only the beginning.
PDG (and NDDC) founder Jim Braucher opened the session with a definition of sustainability as the “capacity to endure”. He noted that efforts in this area sought a minimal long-term effect on the environment and to eliminate negative impacts on the building’s occupants and the surrounding community.
Miles Britz the outlined the five basic components of sustainable design: site planning, water use, energy use, indoor air quality, and resource conservation. He emphasized that the benefits are in broad and deep categories: environment, economic, health & safety, and lower infrastructure costs for the community.
He noted that the movement coalesced around the United States Green Building Codes’ Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in 1993. Britz stressed that this group is made up of all kinds of building professionals and provides a independent, third-party verification.
Braucher and Britz argued that the key to success is to bring everyone together at the beginning of the project: the owner, the architect, the engineer and the builder. Braucher noted that in many projects, it can be important to involve the community from an early point too.
The LEED standards have four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum. The additional cost for achieving these levels is approximately 1 to 7 percent of total development costs.
Many local governments have adopted LEED incentive programs. These incentives include tax credits, tax breaks, density bonuses, reduced fees, priority or expedited permitting, free or reduced-cost technical assistance, grants and low-interest loans.
Owners of LEED buildings have noted the significant savings in operating costs. For the KFI LEED Gold project in Roseville (converting a vacant grocery store into an office building), the calculation is that their $4 million investment will create $58 million in benefits over 20 years.
With the health benefits to the occupants, environmental benefits to the community, opearting cost benefits to the owner, and infrastructure cost benefits to the city, sustainable design deserves our further consideration.