City of Steamboat reviews LEED certification requirements

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— The city of Steamboat Springs is researching green energy standards in anticipation of a request from the local development community to reduce the costs associated with energy efficiency certifications such as LEED and Green Globes.

In her most recent staff report, City Manager Deb Hinsvark wrote that the Steamboat Springs City Council soon might hear a request to drop the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification requirement for single family and duplex construction in the mountain base area.

The requirement is part of the mountain base area design standards, which supplement the community development code and govern construction in four Steamboat zone districts near the mountain. The city also has its own separate green building standards that apply to development in all areas.

One of the issues that has been raised, Steamboat Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said, is the cost of having a third party come out to perform an inspection to certify the building as LEED or one of the other programs mentioned in the design standards.

“There’s some debate on how much that actually costs,” Gibbs said, adding that he has not finished investigating those costs.

Gibbs said he’s had some meetings with professionals who are familiar with implementing green building standards to better understand the associated time and costs.

“We don’t want to inadvertently have that cost take away from putting more quality green features into the building itself,” he said.

The green building certification programs compete against each other, and there’s an ongoing debate as to the merits of each.

They should be evaluated for their value compared to cost, Gibbs said.

The cost of the third-party certification ultimately is incorporated into the cost of the finished home and should present a direct benefit to the owners in terms of their long-term energy costs.

There’s also a savings to the community from more energy-efficient buildings, Gibbs said, in terms of the reduced pressure on infrastructure.

Reviewing the costs and value of the third-party building certifications doesn’t indicate a lack of commitment to energy efficiency on the city’s part, he said, it’s just a good chance to evaluate how effective the different programs are.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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