SWEEP first convened stakeholder meetings in Colorado in 2008 to determine if there was interest in regional collaboration for green building programs. An outcome was a report on energy efficient and sustainable buildings called Going Beyond Code: A Guide to Creating Energy Efficient and Sustainable Buildings in the Southwest. In 2010, SWEEP coordinated a collaborative effort with more than one hundred individuals representing more than fifty stakeholder organizations to develop recommendations for regional consistency in green building programs.
When the project was originally conceptualized, the landscape of available codes and standards was much different. The NGBS, IGCC and Standard 189.1 were still under development and had not yet been published. After publication of these green building code products in 2009 and 2010, the project shifted from attempting to create a new model green building code to understanding the new code products and gaining acceptance from regional stakeholders on which products the regional green building program would reference.
Colorado already had a well-received residential green building program called Built Green Colorado, both LEED and ENERGY STAR had achieved significant market penetration, and many jurisdictions had locally developed programs. Assumptions could not be made about how jurisdictions in the region would embrace the new products or how the new products would interact with the older programs.
In 2010, the aim of the project was to reach consensus on a common code to use as the foundation for green building programs in the Denver Metro area, and to provide recommendations and resources for jurisdictions at the various stages of green building program readiness. The final result was this toolkit which outlines incremental steps toward adoption of a green building program. It was decided that minimum thresholds would not be addressed in the recommendations so that each jurisdiction could retain its ability to establish local goals and code requirements which is the nature of Colorado as a home rule state.
As with any stakeholder engagement process, different people representing a variety of organizational positions and interests expressed very different views on many of the concepts that were discussed. Some critical points on which the group struggled to reach agreement include:
- Voluntary versus mandatory program models. Many of the participants supported a mandatory program model to achieve greater impact in reaching long-term sustainability goals for the built environment. However, the Homebuilder’s Association and some other building trade organizations support a voluntary program model because it allows builders to opt into the program if they choose, and allows builders to achieve market differentiation from other code-built products. Mandatory programs do not have this incentive to the builder because all homes are built to the higher baseline.
- The economic climate. The depressed housing market has been a challenge, but in some ways it can also be an opportunity. A slow market is an ideal time for the construction industry to learn new building concepts. When the market picks up again, the building strategies and the industry will have improved. Regardless, many stakeholders reject any costs added to this suffering market.
- Market demand. Builders give clients what they demand. Some of the participating stakeholders claim there is not enough demand for green buildings. The opposing view, supported by research published by the National Association of Homebuilders, projects that the demand for green homes is expected to increase by 50% from 2008 to 2012.
- Staff shortages. Staff shortages in building departments were a concern to some staff in the stakeholder group. Compliance and enforcement of a green building program would demand additional time from already strapped departments. Third party verification can also move some of the work load to the private sector.
- Code cycles. The national green codes that are recommended by the stakeholder group and SWEEP are new products. The IGCC, for example, will not be released as a final version until 2012. Checklists and metrics have not been developed for the codes. This was a concern to some stakeholders. However, data from the long-standing LEED program, which in many regards is similar to the green codes, can provide reasonably reliable estimates of energy, water and waste reduction in green buildings.
The following organizations participated in the stakeholder process and contributed to developing recommendations for the region:
American Institute of Architects – CO Chapter
Alliance for Sustainable Colorado
Built Green® Colorado
City and County of Denver
City of Arvada
City of Aurora
City of Commerce City
City of Fort Collins
City of Golden
City of Greenwood Village
City of Lakewood
City of Longmont
City of Louisville
City of Westminster
Coast to Coast Development
Copeland Planning & Design, LLC
Denver Greenprint Office
Denver Building Owners and Managers Association
Enermodal Engineering, Inc.
Home Builders Association of Metro Denver
Independent Electrical Contractors – Rocky Mt.
International Code Council – CO Chapter
Pacific Northwest National Lab
Rocky Mountain ASHRAE Chapter
Sean Smith Builders
Sevya Fair Trade
State of Colorado – Department of Local Affairs
State of Colorado – Division of Housing
State of Colorado – Governor's Energy Office
Thomas & Thomas Architecture and Design
Town of Parker
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 8
Urban Land Institute
U.S. Green Building Council – Colorado Chapter
Western Mechanical Solutions