South Portland scraps green building code

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council is poised to scrap plans to require energy-efficient building standards in favor of a resolution outlining energy-efficiency goals.

The draft resolve, presented at a workshop on Monday night, May 24, was applauded by councilors who were critical of the council’s previous efforts and panned by those who want the city to set firm energy rules.

The resolution outlines steps the city has already taken towards sustainability and sets general goals for the future. It notes the city’s 2007 signing of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, use of LED lights and efforts to conduct energy audits of city buildings and develop a citywide Climate Action Plan.

The resolution calls on the city to continue implementing energy-efficient upgrades. Specifically, it seeks to establish a “Green Team” and implement an “Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy” by mid-summer.

“This is an incredible resolve,” Councilor Linda Boudreau said. “We don’t have to be the first to adopt a green policy. Let’s do it right and thoughtfully.”

Councilor Tom Blake, however, said he is disappointed the city is no longer interested in requiring developers to certify their buildings using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

“I’m surprised to see this, because it didn’t seem like the direction we were headed in,” said Blake, who as mayor introduced the green building code last year.

Blake said a council resolution is merely a statement of fact, rather than a course of action.

“I don’t want statements of fact; I want action. ” Blake said. “It’s nice to brag about these things, but it doesn’t get us to where we’re going.”

Ann Archino Howe, the city’s new energy and sustainability coordinator, said the city sought a resolution in lieu of putting LEED standards in the building code because LEED standards were never intended for that use.

“I think municipalities are using (LEED standards) because there isn’t anything else,” Howe said. “But I think we’re coming into a time there will be something else.”

Howe pointed to statewide efforts to establish uniform building codes relating to energy efficiency. Those codes, which were intended to be implemented by June 1, will have to be adopted by municipalities, she said.

“There are a lot of implications that are unknown,” she said.

Councilor Patti Smith said she agreed that the city needed to do better than a resolution. Not only should the city set concrete goals, but its progress towards those goals should be reported to the council quarterly, rather than annually, she said.

“There’s too much going on,” Smith said. “We need to shine a light on it.”

Assistant City Manger Erik Carson said staff would rework some of the language to include more concrete action steps. “At the end of the day, it’s making sure it’s achievable,” he said.

Like other councilors, Mayor Tom Coward said the document should include an emphasis on educating the public, not only about the city’s efforts, but also how homeowners can also live more environmentally sustainable lives.

“Education is really the key to this,” Coward said. “Sustainability needs to be sold. It’s more of what can people do.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or