Bill sees ‘green’ buildings
The City Council looks at giving permits only for sustainable designs
Honolulu could join cities across the country that are becoming "greener."
The Honolulu City Council is considering a measure that would require new buildings to meet certain environmental standards, but some say it would be both difficult to implement and costly to developers.
"Other cities are competing to be the greenest city," said City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, one of the two members who introduced Bill 87 last year. "I think we're committed to moving in that direction."
Under the bill, all new buildings permitted after Jan. 1, 2010, would meet minimum standards to reduce water and energy consumption by using environmentally friendly materials and sustainable designs.
A nonprofit organization, the U.S. Green Building Council, has developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system -- with four levels from the highest of platinum to the most basic of certification -- and boasts that it will reduce the building's carbon footprint as well as cut long-term costs.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he has not seen the bill yet, but supports businesses following LEED standards.
"It's a matter of just getting more people akamai about LEED certification, for businesses to recognize that you save money in the long run," Hannemann said. "Over time it's cheaper and better for the environment."
Under a 2006 city ordinance, all new city facilities larger than 5,000 square feet are required to meet LEED standards. Developers voluntarily comply with the LEED system now.
Other cities have approved similar legislation -- including Portland, Ore., Seattle and Chicago. However, they impose less stringent requirements than Honolulu's proposal.
Washington, D.C., for example, requires commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to meet LEED standards.
David Tanoue, deputy director of the city Department of Permitting and Planning, said he supports the bill's intention but that it would put a burden on the department because it would require employees to learn the LEED system for certification.
"We already struggle with resources and trying to push things out as fast as we can," Tanoue said Feb. 26 at a City Council committee hearing.
"The way (the bill) is currently is too onerous of the city," said city Councilman Gary Okino. "There has to be a better way to implement this."
Several developers sent in testimony saying it would be too costly for them to construct buildings using environmentally sensitive materials not readily available in Hawaii.
Sid Char, president of the Honolulu chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said that because LEED is a relatively new system to Hawaii, it could allow for certain providers to have monopolies.
"The Sierra Club certainly supports the bill," said Randy Ching, Sierra Club Oahu Group chairman. "We're certainly realistic enough to realize the bill is not going to survive as it's currently worded. I don't think it has to be LEED standards. ... There are other green checklists."
Other types of "green" building standards include Energy Star, a certification system the state uses for new buildings.
The City Council also will consider a measure to create an advisory group to educate the city on increasing sustainable planning practices, including design and construction of buildings.
The Council's Committee of Planning and Sustainability deferred the bill with plans to amend portions, including the year of implementation, to make it less restrictive on developers. Dela Cruz said it also will consider providing incentives for developers to voluntarily adopt LEED standards.