City certification will be easier to earn starting on July 1

Lynh Bui – May. 24, 2011
The Arizona Republic

The next phase of Phoenix’s Green Building program is set to take off, making it easier for businesses and homeowners to get their projects certified as environmentally sustainable.

On July 1, Phoenix will launch a construction code that allows developers and homeowners to earn green certifications through the city.

The idea is to give residents and businesses behind building projects the benefits and cachet of going green without having to go through other agencies whose certification process may be more complicated or time consuming.

Cindy Stotler, acting assistant director of Planning and Development Services, said the city’s new green construction code requires projects to meet several standards based on a checklist. If enough of the criteria are met, Phoenix will certify the building.

“The way things are going in the construction industry, they want to build green and build great energy-efficient projects,” Stotler said. “Now they don’t have to go through LEED or any other agency.”

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is an internationally recognized green-building certification system that the U.S. Green Building Council created in 2000.

Similar to LEED, Phoenix will award projects bronze, silver, gold or emerald standards based on how environmentally friendly a project is.

Projects can accumulate points for adding reflective roofs to reduce heat-island effect, recycling building materials during the construction process to divert trash from landfills to building along the light rail to avoid urban sprawl.

The city developed the new code using part of the $700,000 in stimulus money Phoenix received through the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Program.

The rest of the money has been used to provide incentives for homeowners and businesses going green.

Stotler said Phoenix started giving green-building incentives in October and only $50,000 is left from the original $500,000 in grant money. Because of the high demand, Phoenix found another $200,000 in grants to allocate to the incentives program.

Phoenix has waived fees for more than 22,000 permits participating in the incentive program.

Builders and homeowners can get incentives for replacing windows and water heaters with models that are more energy-efficient or for installing new HVAC systems.

Sean Terrell, the director of purchasing for Pulte Homes, said more homebuyers are demanding products that have been built with sustainability in mind.

Pulte’s Fireside at Desert Ridge housing community in north Phoenix is part of the city’s green-building incentives program.

“Homebuyers are more knowledgeable about energy-efficient features and they know the impact it can have on their utility bills,” Terrell said.