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Developer backs ‘green’ ordinance

Condo developer Bob Horner told Evanston aldermen Monday he supports a proposed green building ordinance for new construction projects.

Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting, Horner, who with his partner Ibrahim Shihadeh is building the Winthrop Club high-rise at 1567 Maple Ave., called the ordinance "an excellent step in the right direction."

Horner, who is seeking gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the Winthrop Club project, said the ordinance would give Evanston a head start in becoming a leader "in the new economy based on a clean environment, sustainability and energy independence."

The city’s Environment Board presented a revised draft of the ordinance to aldermen for discussion Monday.

The new version eliminates a much-criticized penalty provision that would have denied a certificate of occupancy for buildings that fail to meet certification standards.

Instead it proposes that developers be required to post a performance bond that would be forfeited if the building didn’t win its environmental approvals.

Walter Hallen, of the city’s building division, said purchasing the bond, a form of insurance, might only cost a developer "$1,200 to buy for a fairly large project."

Horner said he had some doubts about that figure, because it’s a new use of the performance bond concept, "but I know you need some kind of enforcement mechanism."

Horner, who lives at 2708 Grant St. in Evanston, said turning the Winthrop Club into a green project added only about 1 percent to the construction cost.

"Our construction cost is over $200 a square foot," Horner said, and "the incremental cost to achieve the Gold LEED certification are less than $2 per square foot" more than the building’s original non-LEED design.

Most of the additional cost, he added, "is due to the certification process itself rather than major design changes."

Architect Len Sciarra, chair of the Environment Board, said the group had also decided to limit the certification level required to silver for all affected buildings.

A previous draft had called for requiring the higher, gold certification on city-owned buildings.

The board held to its earlier proposal to require any building project greater than 10,000 square feet to comply with the green-building rules.

Sciarra said that over the past seven years only about seven projects per year in Evanston have exceeded the 10,000 square foot threshold.

Hallen said that if the trigger-point was raised to 20,000 square feet the number of projects affected would be cut in half.

Environment Board members argued against excluding affordable housing projects from the program — saying green buildings are healthier for people and have lower operating costs.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, asked the Environment Board members to have further discussion with city staff about remaining issues and to seek further feedback from the Preservation Commission about the impact the proposed ordinance might have on historic districts.

He said he hoped the committee would be able to take another look at the proposal at its February meeting.

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