Green programs not perfect, but provide tools, focus attention
Green building and energy efficiency measures aren’t the last word in environmental construction measures. But they at least get the conversation going.Ashley Muse, a sustainable design consultant for Rocky Mountain Institute, said a lot of cities are implementing green building codes and incentives, and a lot of developers are starting to do things such as seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. She said programs such as LEED certification and EPA Energy Star, which promotes energy efficiency, “are great tools for kind of helping assess a building’s environmental impact.”But she said they also allow for a wide range of green measures to be implemented.”I’m excited when people start asking, well, what does that mean and what did they accomplish by pursuing LEED,” she said.As developers also start to pursue carbon-neutral projects, Muse said the big question is what that means. She’s glad to hear Reserve at Elk Meadows developers spelling out a specific goal of offsetting five years’ worth of carbon emissions that would be generated by that project.Still, she said, carbon emissions can be measured different ways. Some developers talk only about the operational costs of a development. Others factor in the energy required to build and ship materials.Also, Muse said any project can become carbon neutral if the developers are willing to buy credit offsets that go for things such as planting trees and paying for wind production. But she said it’s also important to reduce the amount of carbon produced in the first place, through energy-efficient measures such as use of passive solar.”That’s more exciting than business as usual but we’ve planted a lot of trees,” she said. “It’s not as easy as we make it and we plant a tree and it goes away.”Muse said many cities have been leading the way in promulgating green building codes and incentives. Some statewide movements also are being seen, while the federal government’s focus has been on providing tax incentives and making its own buildings greener, she said.Some might argue that the greenest building is no building. Muse doesn’t necessarily think development is bad, but said there needs to be a change in thinking about how to go about it. As one example, she cites growing support for the notion of the “living building.” She describes this as “a building that produces more energy than it uses and treats more water than it pollutes and wastes, and a building that provides habitat in its roof spaces and its wall spaces for other species.”Muse said green building also can be particularly valuable in cases of redevelopment. Developer Terry Claassen’s proposed Roaring Fork Lodge would replace a rundown former racquet club in Glenwood Springs.”If you look at that site right now, if nothing happens to it is that going to be better than having a quality project there?” Claassen asked.In his case, that project would include LEEDS certified construction.Although the Reserve at Elk Meadows would result in some 200 homes on what is now ranch land, its developers say one environmental benefit is that 92 percent of the land involved would be protected as open space.Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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