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02/27/2009 11:02 AM     print story email story      

Portland to Introduce Green Building Feebates

Officials in Portland, Oregon have proposed a far-reaching green building program that would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

For new commercial buildings 20,000 square feet or larger, the proposal sets up a "feebate" program - developers that merely meet Oregon's state building code would be assessed a fee by the City of up to $3.46 per square foot. The fee would be waived for buildings that achieve LEED Silver certification; and those that achieve LEED Gold, LEED Platinum or the Living Building Challenge, would receive rebates of $1.73-$17.30 per square foot depending on the level of certification. The policy also requires buildings to achieve specific LEED credits, emphasizing energy efficiency and water use reduction, for example.

Multifamily residential properties 5000 square feet or larger would be subject to the same requirements and be eligible for rebates of $0.51-$5.15 per square foot. Larger multifamily projects 50,000 square feet or larger that receive City funding must meet at least LEED Silver and must avoid wood products with added urea formaldehyde as well as vinyl flooring. All existing commercial and multifamily residential buildings will have to publicly disclose energy performance by 2013 but won't have to make improvements.

For new single family residential construction, the proposal sets performance targets for the percentage of homes certified through either the LEED for Homes or Earth Advantage programs. These targets increase from 20% in 2009 to 40% in 2011. If at any point, the targets aren't met, the City will set up a feebate structure similar to that used for commercial buildings. Requirements for energy performance disclosure for exiting homes were edited out of the final draft of the program.

According to Vinh Mason at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the new policy came about in part because Portland can't institute a building code that's more stringent than the statewide code. So far, Mason noted, about half the respondents in a public comment period think the policy is appropriate for the city. Another 40% say it's not stringent enough, and about 10% don't support the policy.

Ralph DiNola, Assoc. AIA, principal at Green Building Services in Portland, believes the policy will likely pass. "There's good support for it moving forward among developers and builders that are leaders in green building," he said. Portland already has a strong green building community, he says, in part because of strong statewide incentives such as the Business Energy Tax Credit. "Sustainability has become so much a part of our mainstream culture in the city, so I don't think this will come as a big surprise.

One key question remains: how will the City finance the incentives? The City expects the program to be self-sustaining, with the fees from lower performance buildings financing incentives for higher performance buildings. But "if you make a reasonable effort, you should be at the waiver stage," says DiNola, meaning there may not be enough fee-paying buildings to fund the incentives. Officials say they'll make adjustments to the feebate structure as necessary.

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Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability

FROM Environmental Building News, a SustainableBusiness.com Content Partner.

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