Developers and environmental activists sparred Monday over Evanston’s proposed green building ordinance.

This ordinance “has the ability to put me out of business,” developer Andrew Spatz said.


Developers and environmental activists sparred Monday over Evanston’s proposed green building ordinance.

This ordinance “has the ability to put me out of business,” developer Andrew Spatz said.

The Environmental Board developed the ordinance to require commercial and multi-family buildings to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Certification.

It met Monday to discuss how to implement revisions to the plan that were hashed out at a meeting last week of a task force the City Council formed to develop a compromise plan that could win support from both developers and activists.

In revising the ordinance, Len Sciarra and other members of the task force assigned to draft the ordinance abandoned a rule under which developers would have been forced to make a deposit before construction to ensure compliance. If a building failed to make LEED Silver Certification, its developer would lose the deposit.

The revised ordinance would instead charge a developer a $25,000 penalty for each point a project falls short of the 50 points required for LEED Silver Certification after two years. The ordinance applies only to projects 10,000 square feet or more.

That’s bad news for small developers, Spatz said. The threshold size for affected buildings should be higher than 10,000 square feet, he said. Otherwise, applying for LEED Certification would be such a drain on his time that it could end his business, even though most of his designs are already energy efficient, he said.

Committee members acknowledged that the certification process can be time-consuming – references to a two-and-a-half inch stack of necessary documents and forms were commonplace. Nevertheless, they were hesitant to recommend raising the threshold because they said it would lower the effectiveness of the ordinance, which is estimated to affect five to six projects a year.

To resolve the issue, Sciarra suggested that the ordinance should drop LEED certification and have the city develop its own, more simplified certification system.

Citizen Michael Drennan said the fee of $25,000 per missed point is too sharp. But the city council wants a high fee, Sciarrra said.

“They said the stick needs to be enough of a stick for people to do it,” he said.

If developers miss a point for a technical error, the revised ordinance enables them to appeal to the city manager, he said.

The ordinance is set to return to the city task force, which comprises business leaders, environmental activists and city staff at a meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28.

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4 Comments

  1. Are environmentalists allergic to carrots?
    It’s my understanding that the City Council along with Evanston’s business community unanimously rejected the first proposed green ordinance because it was punitive in nature – no carrot all stick.

    How is this new proposal any different? Charge developers “a $25,000 penalty for each point a project falls short of the 50 points required for LEED Silver Certification after two years?”

    You would think the Environmental Board would get the message.

    Why not try the carrot approach, which I understand is used by other cities that seem to have successful and manageable green ordinances. For example, offer tax incentives to developers and building owners who obtain a LEED certification.

    Don’t penalize but reward efforts to obtain ANY level of LEED certification.

  2. Why is the green building ordinance …
    I find it very difficult to understand why the proposed GBO is only being directed to Businesses and multifamily structures.

    If the city and the Environment Board believe that reducing CO2 emmissions is good for all of the city’s inhabitants, why are we not encouraging all renovations whether they be residential, commercial, and single family residences to consider the use of energy efficient materials in all work that is being done.

    If we took that approach, I am sure we could have a far greater impact on pollution.

    If we are going to do this at all, lets do it right.

    Why not have monthly workshops for all to attend to see the benefits of going green.

    Why not provide our residents with the information that will help them make more informed choices, when they replace furnaces, or renovate their houses or businesses and buildings.

    This approach will require more energy and participation, but at least it would provide a productive way to get involved.

  3. Green building irony
    Developers and business owners tell us that they can’t follow LEED certification because it’s too expensive, yet one of the only condo building success stories of the last year in Evanston at the moment is a LEED Gold certified building.

    Hmm…

    I think people need to spend less time fighting these standards and more time learning how to design and build buildings more efficiently, even if it costs more up front. Someday we’ll look back and wonder why we allowed new buildings to be built using old inefficient methods at all.

    1. Scarce resources
      Lost in all of this worship of green is the fact that money is also a scarce resource. Will these LEED embellishments pay off?

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