San Carlos begins painting town green 

Developers in San Carlos will need to install efficient water fixtures, use alternative roofing materials or employ other environmentally friendly techniques starting next year to meet the city’s newly adopted green building standards. City Council members last week approved the city’s first green building ordinance, which officials say will reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions while allowing builders flexibility to meet the new requirements.

Like similar ordinances adopted in recent years by other Peninsula cities, including Redwood City, Belmont, San Mateo and Hillsborough, developers can win approval under the San Carlos code by getting at least 50 points on a commonly used green building checklist.

A developer could get four points for using a solar water heating system or three points for an efficient toilet, according to the checklist developed by the nonprofit Build It Green.

Developers can also pass muster by having the building LEED-certified, another widely accepted standard. But San Carlos’ code is unique because it allows a third way to comply — regardless of the point method, developers have to show the building is 15 percent below state energy-effiency standards.

The ordinance, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2011, applies to new buildings and some remodels. It also makes the city one of the first on the Peninsula to bring its code in line with mandatory statewide green building standards that will be implemented next year.

City officials plan to track the ordinance over the next year to see if it poses a hardship for developers, said Building Official Chris Valley. “The intent of this ordinance is to be workable and fair and balanced,” he said.

A study found that the ordinance would increase the cost of a small single-family home by 82 cents a square foot and a commercial project by $1.50 a square foot, though energy savings would recoup those costs.

“We anticipate that financially, the cities and residents will ultimately benefit from implementing green building standards,” said Rafael Reyes, director of the Bay Area Climate Collaborative.

Being green

A sampling of points available under the Build It Green checklist, one of three ways to have a building pass San Carlos’s new green building ordinance:

- 2 points: Home within a half mile of a major transit stop

- 3 points: 75 percent of plants are California native or Mediterranean-climate species

- 1 point: Uses 75 percent recycled content for wall and floor insulation

- 4 points: Uses environmentally preferable flooring

Source: City of San Carlos

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