Golden considering overhaul of sustainability rules as green goals increase

Developers would face more stringent requirements for new construction

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/24/21

Developers and builders looking to build new structures in Golden will likely face more stringent sustainability requirements for those buildings once a planned update of the city’s sustainability …

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Golden considering overhaul of sustainability rules as green goals increase

Developers would face more stringent requirements for new construction

Posted

Developers and builders looking to build new structures in Golden will likely face more stringent sustainability requirements for those buildings once a planned update of the city’s sustainability standards is completed sometime next year.

Ten years ago, the city adopted a set of sustainability requirements for new construction that have been enforced by the city’s planning and zoning department as part of the site plan review process for new developments.

Those requirements include a list of standards builders must meet, a list of guidelines of which they must meet the majority and a third list of sustainability items that they get points for meeting. A new structure is currently required to earn 25 points to be deemed to have met the city’s sustainability requirements.

However, both members of the planning commission and several members of the Golden Planning Commission say they have come to see several problems with that system that degrade the integrity of those regulations.

Among the complaints about the current menu system were that many of the points could be earned based on factors that were a result of a building’s location and out of the builder’s control, such as one that assigned points to structures built within ¼ of a mile of a bus stop.

Concerns were also raised about certain provisions that allowed builders to “negotiate” which sustainability requirements they would meet and propose alternatives.

However, the biggest complaint was that the menu system allowed for “double dipping” by which builders could receive points in multiple categories for making the same improvement.

“What I’m seeing frequently in applicants is they’re taking points for the roof and they are also taking the additional points for additional energy efficiency [from the roof],” said Planning Commissioner Todd Collins.

Collins said the intent of providing points for additional energy efficiency was for those points to be earned by taking steps beyond those already accounted for in the menu.

To attempt to address those issues, city planning staff are proposing that the city create a new code that will outline many more standards developers would be required to meet as well as a much smaller points-based menu.

“The idea is to move us away from the menu approach as much as possible over time and make the things we want our applicants to do standards,” said Planning Director Rick Muriby.

On Feb 8, Golden Senior Planner Cory Miller sent the Planning Commission a document containing an outline of a new sustainability requirements well as explanations for why several requirements should be eliminated. There are two sets of suggested requirements, one for multi-family and commercial buildings and one for single-family homes and duplexes.

Among the suggested changes are to require the use of fixtures, such as toilets and sinks, that have been approved under EPA water conservation guidelines and to provide a compost bin on the property with a contract for pick-up service. Currently, those things are only optional, earing builders points from the sustainability menu.

City staff are also planning to move sustainability requirements from being under the purview of the planning department to building inspectors.

“Several of the sustainability provisions within the zoning code are oriented towards the build/construction phase of development and not specifically zoning review,” wrote Miller in that document. “For instance, requiring the installation of high efficiency windows and toilets are perhaps better aligned with the building permit review process and can be more easily verified upon inspection by the city’s building inspectors.”

Although the planning council expressed agreement with the proposed changes, the city is also planning to hire a sustainability expert to look at the proposed changes and make further critiques or recommendations.

Both the Planning Commission and Golden’s Sustainability Advisory Code will then need to review a finalized sustainability rules and recommend its passage to the city council, which will make the ultimate decision about whether to formally adopt them into the city’s zoning code, which is itself going through a rewrite process.

Golden Sustainability Coordinator Theresa Worsham said it is important for the city to adopt more stringent sustainability codes for new construction if it is to meet its current goals of all new buildings being zero energy by 2030 and all existing buildings in the city being zero energy by 2050. A building is considered zero energy when all of its energy is provided by renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.

“We have always kind of prided ourselves on the sustainability menu being fairly easy to understand and implement,” she said. “But now we are faced with more difficult sustainability goals and kind of a transition of how do we get to 2030 and 2050?”

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