Portland's Battle To Legislate Green Building

On December 3, 2008, Portland unveiled its new suite of green building regulations based around a fee and rebate system.  My fellow green building laywer Chris Cheatham over at Green Building Law Update describes the "feebate" system:

Under the Feebate system, all new buildings built to code are assessed a fee.  If a project is built to LEED Silver, then the fee is waived and the owner obtains access to financing options.  Even better, if a project attains LEED Gold, the city writes the project owner a check! 

Although the Feebate system is a great idea, Oregon Live reports that not everyone was happy with the program, specifically the homebuilding industry, forcing Portland's mayor to exempt homes from the feebate program

New homes would not get the new fees or rebates. But the city would ask of the homebuilding industry: Meet a citywide goal of getting more new homes certified green each year, or else Portland would impose a fee-and-rebate system to make builders comply.

This is a pretty big compromise, and an interesting precedent for cities looking to emulate Portland's system.  For example, in Philadelphia, retrofitiing and building homes is a large component of the building stock.  If homes are exempted, what impact will that have on the overall efficacy of green building programs? 



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Green Building Law Update - December 8, 2008 10:03 AM
Last week, Green Building Law Update highlighted Portland's innovative green building regulation that includes a "Feebate" system to encourage green building development. According to this OregonLive article, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman un...
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Chris Cheatham - December 4, 2008 12:55 PM

Funny, I saw that article this morning and had bookmarked it for a later article.

Portland is handling their green building regulations very well, although I am still not sure about incorporating LEED certification into any green buiding regulation.


Sara Sweeney - December 4, 2008 7:03 PM

It's unfortunate that residential is exempt from this measure. Although I too have some mixed feelings about legislating green building, I also feel that it's a push that is perhaps needed on some fronts. I am also frustrated by Dave Nielsen's comment -the chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, that "...[the mayor] is rushing to impose new rules without assessing their potential impact. Buyers of new homes might or might not recoup the higher price they pay for energy efficiency measures..."

I interpret his comment to mean he assumes that a more energy and resource efficient home will more than likely be more expensive, which isn't necessarily the case -although I realize that the sale cost might be higher because of the perceived value factor to the buyer. But a more energy and resource efficient home will also no doubt increase in value faster than a more conventionally built home. And, if it's durable, will be more maintenance 'free,' further decreasing operating costs to the homeowner. Finally, there is the simple ethical reality that continuing to focus on the bottom line of the dollar value won't pay off in the long run anymore.

Dave Reid - December 7, 2008 2:51 PM

Reading this I wonder if this legislation will actually have the reverse of the impact that it was intended. I say this because if you exempt home building (I'm thinking single family) then you are encouraging sprawl style development which certainly isn't green.

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