Portland City Council may change 'green' building rules

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PORTLAND — Engineers and architects designing projects owned or financed by the city may soon be able to choose which “green” building standards their work meets.

The City Council will review a proposed ordinance amendment Wednesday night that would replace the existing requirement that any new construction paid for or financed by the city be certified at the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, silver standard.

The new requirement would be that a project obtain an energy efficiency rating a specific percentage higher than the initial American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers 90.1 standard.

The ASHRAE standards are detailed interior performance criteria that engineers and architects can use to determine the energy efficiency of a building. 

The proposed change is expected to reduce the cost of building an energy-efficient building, because LEED certification has been critized as too expensive for local governments to afford.

With the School Department pushing to renovate and replace of several elementary schools in the next few years, it is likely this change would directly affect those projects.

For new construction, the city would require a 30 percent increase in efficiency over the ASHRAE standard for that type and size of building, 25 percent increase for renovations to existing buildings and 20 percent for historic buildings.

A licensed engineer would have to sign off on the project, asserting that it met these standards, before it could be approved.

The requirements would only pertain to buildings larger than 2,000 square feet and to any renovations of more than 10,000 square feet. This would eliminate a previous rule that required all projects costing more than $2,500 to obtain LEED certification.

The amendment would also provide a simple waiver process: If the cost of obtaining LEED or ASHRAE certification is more than 3 percent of the construction costs, the requirement can be waived.

The waiver would also be available for projects that cannot meet the standard because historic preservation standards conflict with green building requirements.

The City Council will hold its first reading of the proposed changes Jan. 18. 

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.