Friday, March 23, 2012

City’s ‘green’ building code advances

Ketchum holds 1st reading of proposed ordinance

Express Staff Writer

Though a sustainable "green" building ordinance in Ketchum has not yet been enacted, city officials are predicting that the new chapter in city code will be accepted by the construction community.

A green building code was listed as a priority during a City Council goal-setting retreat in 2010. Later that year, Mayor Randy Hall appointed a team to study existing green building codes, educate the public and work on a draft code.

In December and January, Associate Planner Rebecca Bundy presented the City Council initial ideas for the code. She presented the proposed ordinance to the council at its March 19 meeting.

"We've been working for well over a year on this, the team and I," she said. "We're finally here before you with an ordinance."

The team has recommended that the code require a silver compliance level, which is part of a green-building certification system developed under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System.

It would apply to new construction and additions, with some exceptions.

"It's pretty standard in building codes that anything new has to be built to code," she said.

Under the proposal, buildings would have to incorporate a required number of energy-efficient and sustainable features. A "prescriptive" path identifies what needs to be done to get there, but builders and architects also could get to that number under a "performance" path, by which they can be creative with the home as long as the structure passes certain tests.

There are many ways to get to the required number of features, so very little would be mandated by the city, according to staff.

The ordinance deals only with residential construction.

"We're doing commercial separately," Bundy said. "Commercial has potential for much greater energy savings, but it's also a much more complicated code."

Ketchum Building Official Cedric Knehans said he doesn't think local builders will have any trouble with the new requirements, if they are enacted.

"The only thing we're going to do is catch the new guys coming into the valley and get them to perform like the local contractors," he said.

The city's building official would have responsibility to verify that construction complies with the code.

Despite what the city sees as contractors' capability as well as philosophical buy-in, staff will offer them extra guidance during the initial period.

"We will hand-hold as a department people's first time through," Bundy said.

Mayor Randy Hall said the team's outreach to the building community and general public has been good, as evidenced by the lack of phone calls he's received and lack of negative comment at the public hearing.

"If we were getting ready to make a mistake, we'd have a line of contractors out the door," he said. "We're not seeing that."

Instead, he said, most agree with the concept and appreciate the flexibility built in.

"They are conscientious about this," he said. "They want to do everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint."

The ordinance will get a second reading at the council's April 2 meeting.

Rebecca Meany:

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