Despite complaints from business groups, Evanston aldermen Monday accepted for introduction an ordinance to require that large construction and renovation projects in the city meet green building standards.

The proposed ordinance would require that any construction or renovation project larger than 10,000 square feet meet silver certification standards under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said the ordinance could make it much more costly to build in parts of town that are not well-served by mass transit, because the green building program gives large automatic credits for projects close to mass transit.

Projects that don’t qualify for those “free” credits would have to use additional more expensive building technologies to meet the program standards.

Former Environment Board chair Len Sciarra disputed that claim at the City Council meeting, saying that the LEED standards include bus service in the definition of mass transit and that essentially all of Evanston is served by buses.

But Perman this morning said that the standards only count bus service if a project is within a quarter mile of a bus stop that serves at least two different bus routes.

That standard, he said, would leave large portions of Evanston’s 2nd, 5th, 6th and 9th wards out of luck.

Perman noted that Evanston’s west side has struggled for years to draw much new development and said the new ordinance could create a new disincentive to development there.

Perman said the chamber agrees with the goal of reducing Evanston’s greenhouse gas emissions, but has serious misgivings about the ordinance’s impact on economic development.

Perman also criticized the requirement in the ordinance that developers post a bond with the city that they would lose if the project ultimately did not win silver certification under the program.

The bond would range from $50,000 to $500,000 depending on the value of the project.

“No other building regulation is enforced this way,” Perman said, “It’s a very heavy-handed approach and shows a very arrogant attitude on the part of the city.”

While Sciarra said the Environment Board has consulted with all interested parties about the ordinance, Perman said business people who were involved in drafting the ordinance “are well-intentioned but are not representative of the entire business community.”

Howard Handler of the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors also criticized the ordinance, noting that it provides no incentives for green development — in the form of greater floor area ratios or discounted permit fees, and that developers would not earn interest on the bond money they deposited with the city.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. The opposition is short
    The opposition is short sighted. Period.
    Yes it might cost more now, but the long term savings are what counts.

    Human populations have reached a size where their contribution to global destruction is such that the freedom’s of prior times to burn fossil fuels, to clear cut forests, to build as if there were no consequence, are over.

    On the other hand, if we’re willing to reduce population size to the size that it was, say 200 or 300 years ago, and to keep it at that level, then it might be possible to return to those comparatively “mindless” ways.

    In short, everything has it’s costs. There are no “free lunches”.

  2. Get rid of the population
    @Richard

    Since the answer to our problems is “shrinking” the population, I guess you wouldn’t mind to be the first to go, right?

    In the case that you do mind, then the solution would really be to advance technology to provide for an increasing population which the human civilization has done for hundreds of years (well 2 thousands).

    The only thing that is shortsighted is your reasoning.

  3. How about lobbying for increaced bus service instead?
    Residents of the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 9th wards are currently under-served by public transportation, and Jonathan Perman’s response is to oppose LEED certification standards for new buildings? This seems a bit backwards to me. Those neighborhoods deserve access to public transportation, and without it they likely aren’t good locations for a 10,000+SF building.

    Keep in mind that the credits associated with access to public transportation are just 2 of 69 possible credits (of which, a minimum of 33 credits need to be achieved to meet “Silver”). The location to public transportation is not a prerequisite for LEED certification, and I believe the developer can provide a privately funded shuttle service to serve projects that are not within the 1/4 mile of two or more bus lines.

    If you want to attract developers to the west side of Evanston, then start by lobbying for increased public transportation options for that area. Public transportation will not only be a benefit to current residents, but would create a better location for future development.

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