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Council approved revised green building ordinance

Remodels and new construction will have to gather green building points.

San Anselmo passed a revised version of a green building ordinance last night, after council member Jeff Kroot expressed a number of concerns about the initial ordinance.

"It's just one layer after another after another of bureaucracy," said Kroot.

The proposed ordinance would require that all new construction and all remodels over $300,000 go through a system established by the nonprofit organization Build It Green. Build It Green provides a rating system through which construction can garner points for different energy-efficient building techniques. San Anselmo would require that all new construction and all remodels over $300,000 hire a Green Point Rater, certified through Build It Green, who would conduct an audit and verify that the builder has met a certain threshold of points gathered through energy-efficient building.

"[The rater] is the educator, advisor. They're not meant to be the police," said Kevin Beck, who trains Green Point Raters for Build It Green.

The one change that the council made to the proposed green building requirements was that the Green Point Rater does not have to be an independent, third-party auditor.

Under the Build It Green system, in order to receive official Build It Green certification the Green Point Rater must be an independent, third-party auditor and can not be a member of the project team (such as the architect or contractor). This helps ensure verification that what is supposed to happen does happen. But, Kroot – who works as an architect in town – raised a number of concerns about the fact that this rater would come in and not know anything about the project. Kroot also thought it would create an added level of bureaucracy and expense to the project to require a separate Green Point Rater.

"I'm just concerned we may have someone on the project who doesn't know a lot," said Kroot.

Kroot made the argument, which was added as a chance to the resolution, that if the architect or contractor on a project is certified as a Green Point Rater then they should be able to serve as the rater on their own project. Ultimately, the council agreed.

"I have a problem with an independent bureaucracy and an independent business in the exercise of that power," said council member Ford Greene, who was the swing vote in the decision.

In July, the council has the second reading of this original ordinance, but reached a 2-2 tie on the vote – with council members Tom McInerney and Barbara Thornton voting for it and council members Kroot and Kay Coleman voting against it. Though Kroot made the argument that because it was a second reading it should fail, the council decided to hear it again when Greene was back from vacation.

Greene proposed an amendment to allow residents to use a Green Point Rater from their own project team in order to save costs. However, if residents choose to go that route they will not get the official Build It Green certification and "the plaque on the wall," said Green. Residents can choose to hire an independent rater and receive the certification if they choose.

Senior Planner Phil Boyle said many people like to have the certification, because it reflects well on the owner, the builder, and the architect. Boyle also said the additional costs from having to comply with the green building ordinance are projected at .5 percent of the project costs. But, Kroot said the costs are more like 1-1.5 percent.

Beck said his fee as a rater on a project is $1,500. "I can practically guarantee that I will save the homeowner $1,500 in the first four to five years," he said.

The council approved the new version of the ordinance in a 4-1 vote, with Kroot voting against it. It will come back for a second reading at a future meeting.

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