The New York Times reported that Toronto was mulling a mandatory green roof by-law. Developers in Toronto objected to the green roof mandate, arguing:
that it would scare away investment due to the high cost of green roofs. Saying green roof installation should be voluntary, building industry representatives told The Globe and Mail that such add-ons could increase construction costs by $18 to $28 a square foot.
In Philadelphia, City Councilman Curtis Jones proposed tying an already existing ten-year property tax abatement to green building requirements. Building Industry advocates and Mayor Nutter's office made the same argument that the Toronto developers put forward:
"Restricting the abatement program . . . would likely have the effect of inhibiting development when we need it most," Andrew Altman, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told Council this month.
The trouble with these arguments is that they are exactly that---arguments with no basis in fact. The problem? No facts. There is no study which can be pointed to, no analysis which has been done which attempts to quantify the effect of green building regulation on development. Do green building regulations inhibit development? Do they encourage green development? No one really knows for certain.
In this "money constrained economy" it may be easier for critics of green building regulations to wave the red flag of inhibiting development to prevent further strictures from being put in place. To effectively counteract this argument, a study needs to be undertaken which compares the development rates in comparable cities which have green building mandates (like Boston or Washington DC) with those that do not. Controlling for other factors (population, pre-regulation development rates, etc.), it would provide a solid factual foundation for policymaking in this area.