April 30, 2008
By CAROLYN FEIBEL
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Starting Aug. 1, new commercial buildings will have to meet
energy-efficiency benchmarks through the use of "green" design, under a new
energy code approved Wednesday by the City Council.
Mayor Bill White said the small upfront cost increase for builders - about 1
percent - will be paid back by utility savings that can range between 10 and
15 percent a year.
"We think those are very good returns," White said. Every property owner and
resident will benefit in the long run, he added: "The less any new building
consumes, the less likely it is that our power bills will go up in the
future, because electricity prices are now determined by supply and demand."
The new code requires new commercial buildings to have design elements aimed
at reducing energy consumption, such as heat-trapping vestibules, reflective
roofs, and insulation.
The council passed the code by a 14-0 vote; councilman Mike Sullivan was out
of the room at the time.
The city also is developing a new energy code for residential building. That
could appear on the council agenda in a month or two.
Some engineers protested the new rules as too cumbersome during a public
session on Tuesday, but the majority of speakers supported the move.
"This is a landmark step for the city of Houston," said Larry Goodman,
secretary of Houston's Construction Industry Council, an umbrella
association for various builders groups that worked with the city on the new
Houston adopted its first energy codes in 2002 in response to a state
"Yes, people may need to do things a little different than they have been,"
White said. "But the design professionals in this community have gotten up
to speed, and we've had several years where the construction industry has
been dealing with high LEED certifications."
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a building rating
system that awards certifications to buildings that are energy-efficient.
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