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Dallas Council backs 'green building' rules

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Dallas Morning News

Environmentally sensitive construction practices are now Dallas law, as the City Council unanimously voted to implement numerous "green building" regulations Wednesday.

The policy fulfills campaign promises of several city leaders, particularly Mayor Tom Leppert, who have argued that an ever-expanding Dallas must improve its environmental stewardship.

Among the first phase's requirements, effective Oct. 1, 2009: Builders of projects less than 50,000 square feet must use 15 percent less energy and 20 percent less water than current Dallas code standards mandate.

Under the new code, for example, builders must select four water conservation techniques among six options provided, such as installing faucets and shower heads with a two-gallon-per-minute-or-less water flow. The water regulations, in particular, are the product of a compromise by city leaders and builders, some of whom expressed concern over an original green building proposal calling for stronger water standards.

Under Dallas' new code, roofs also must be more energy-efficient on buildings smaller than 50,000 square feet. Projects larger than 50,000 square feet will face similar but less stringent requirements when compared with smaller buildings.

"We're at the lead of the major cities in this country," said Mr. Leppert, the former chairman and chief executive of construction firm Turner Corp. "We had industry come in and really embrace it. We crafted it to make sense for everybody."

Said District 10 council member Jerry Allen, "Dallas is a leader, and everyone else is looking at us."

By Oct. 1, 2011, the ordinance proposal states that all new Dallas construction must be certifiable under "leadership in energy and environmental design" standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council, or under similar standards, such as Green Built North Texas standards.

"The challenge is going to be to implement this and education," Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia said.

Green building, Mr. Leppert said, can and should be as cost-effective as construction that doesn't meet established green building standards. Some builders had expressed concerns that the new regulations would increase construction costs.

Dallas' building inspectors will implement the green building program while the city's office of environmental quality will oversee educational and public-relations components, Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan said.

The months-long negotiations that led to the green building ordinance made for same strange bedfellows, particularly among environmentalists and builders.

But Paul Cauduro of the Homebuilders Association of Greater Dallas said that the time has come for change and builders know it.

"We're all committed to a better-built environment," he said. And builders will have more than a year before the first phases of the ordinance take effect.

David Marquis, an activist and writer who helped kick-start the green buildings initiative, added that no one went into the process with unrealistic expectations.

"This is not a feel-good environmental discussion. This is a practical means of ensuring our future," he said.

The task force of real estate brokers, builders, environmentalists, consultants and others who helped write the green ordinance isn't going away. The group plans to work with city staff members to create green rules for remodeling homes.

The council could get a look at those plans by the end of the summer. But it isn't clear what the remodeling rules will look like.

dlevinthal @ dallasnews.com; rbush @ dallasnews.com

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