Wednesday, May 20, 2009

County Eases Green Build Rules

by Osman Parvez
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From today's Daily Camera:
The Boulder County commissioners agreed Tuesday to ease the green-building rules that went into effect a year ago.

After more than two hours of public testimony, the commissioners asked county staffers to return in three weeks with a tweaked scale for determining how energy-efficient new houses must be and some ideas of how to better regulate remodels.
Consequences cannot always be predicted, but the ones described in the article were fairly obvious.   Given the lack of attention to economic consequences in the process of developing new rules, expect more tweaks in the future, particularly to the City's poorly considered "incompatible development" restrictions. 
The commissioners also asked that staff stretch out the HERS scale for new homes, requiring that houses become close to zero energy when they pass the 7,000- or 8,000-square-foot mark instead of the current 5,000-square-foot measure. Even so, the commissioners seemed largely convinced that, with the right design, the current standards should be achievable with well thought-out planning. 
You can't legislate good design with complex code, whether we're talking about aesthetics (compatible development)  or energy efficiency.   Attempts to do so inevitably result in unintended consequences.    History is filled with failed examples of "well though-out planning." 

That's not to say there shouldn't be standards at all.  I'm in favor of carefully considered standards and we have many in Boulder which are working well.   What's happening is that poorly considered standards have been put into place quickly and efforts for more are continuing. 

In Boulder, last year City Council attempted to enact draconian house size regulations on the premise of an "emergency." When that didn't work, they wasted money by hiring expensive consultants to institute a process and develop a consensus based solution.   It was wasted money because at the end of the process, it wasn't the solution Council wanted, and so they are now trying to ignore it. 

Once again, Council's ill considered (and preconceived) regulations are on the agenda.   The results will not be pretty. 


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