Portland scales back plan for future green buildings

PORTLAND — Opposition from home builders has led Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman to scale back part of a green building plan that affected housing.

As it stands now, the plan calls for commercial construction to be subject to a fee and rebate system: Buildings that simply meet energy and water standards would be charged a fee. But builders could get a waiver or a payment depending on how much more efficient their buildings are.

But the proposal wouldn't impose such a system on housing construction if at least 20 percent of new homes meet green standards.

Saltzman unveiled the proposals a year ago, and put forward the revised plan Wednesday. It could be up for a City Council vote in the spring.

The proposal seeks to cut down on the use of electricity, heating oil and natural gas in homes, offices and shopping centers — collectively, the top source of emissions in Portland that contribute to global warming.

Even the scaled-down plan would be among the toughest in the nation. Only a few cities have taken such steps, and most are smaller and don't take effect for several years.

Rather than hamstring a real estate industry that's already reeling from a massive downturn, Saltzman said, the new proposal could generate energy savings and employment in green industries.

"The unprecedented urgency of global warming, rising energy prices, and the need to create new jobs makes this a key moment for Portland," Saltzman said.

The commercial side of the building industry has been less hostile to the regulations than the homebuilding side.

"The industry is really moving to having buildings that are LEED certified," said developer Mike Wells. "I'm not sure how much regulations are needed to prod the market to do it, because the market's already doing it."

Dave Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland said buyers of new homes might or might not recoup the higher price they pay for energy efficiency measures.

"They have no clue in terms of what the costs are to do this and what the value will be, to the consumer or the value of the home," Nielsen said. "They're just trying to be first to something, and it's crazy."


Information from: The Oregonian, http:www.oregonlive.com

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