Dallas - City officials here have taken steps to make their community a little greener.
The city council in early April unanimously adopted a green construction ordinance that aims to reduce energy and water consumption in all new houses and commercial buildings constructed in the city.
The city already has a green building standard for city-owned buildings, which requires all buildings of more than 10,000 sq. ft. to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver standards. However, a standard did not exist for private development. A Green Building Task Force, comprised of members of the residential and commercial development sectors, developed recommendations for the new standards for all new private development in the city. The task force's recommendations went before the city council in March for consideration.
The ordinance will take effect in two phases. The first phase, starting in 2009, requires that homebuilders construct their homes to be 15% more efficient than the city's base energy code and meet four out of six high-efficiency water reduction strategies.
In the second phase, beginning in 2011, the ordinance requires all new homes to meet the LEED standard or the Green Built North Texas standard and include points toward a 20% water use reduction. New homes also will need to be minimally 17.5% more efficient than the base energy code or the performance of an Energy Star home.
For commercial projects, the first phase of the new ordinance requires buildings of less than 50,000 sq. ft. to be 15% more efficient than the base energy code and use 20% less water than required by the current Dallas Plumbing Code.
For commercial projects of more than 50,000-sq.ft., the first phase requires buildings to meet 85% of the points required under the appropriate LEED rating system for a certified level, including one point for 20% water use reduction. The buildings also must achieve a minimum two points to be 14% more efficient than the base energy code.
The second phase, beginning in 2011, requires all commercial projects to be LEED certifiable under the appropriate LEED rating system, including one point for 20% water use reduction and a minimum three points to be 17.5% more efficient than the base energy code.
Tony Reeder, former president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of North Texas, expressed mixed feelings about the ordinance.
“You just can't legislate mentality,” Reeder said. “When we go to a new house, especially in a fairly affluent neighborhood, the first thing (the owners) ask us to do is to take the water savers out.”
Reeder said such an attitude might not pertain so much to toilets as it does to showers.
“As long as toilets evacuate the waste, no matter how much water they use, people don't care,” he said. “When they get in the shower, they want that tingly feeling. Even at 2.2 GPM, it's hard to get that tingly feeling.”
Reeder said he agrees the new ordinance is beneficial, but said consumers need to learn more about energy efficiency and water conservation.
“Is the legislation good? Yes. Water conservation is a very important issue facing us,” he said. “I think we need to educate the consumer as to why this is important instead of saying this is important because it's a law.”
Reeder added that consumers will not take measures like water conservation seriously until such issues directly impact them.
“Just like gas, we've got to be bitten in the pocketbook before we even start to think about getting rid of our four-mile-per-gallon Hummers,” he said. “Until it affects us, we don't pay attention to it.”
Reeder said the challenge for area contractors now will be to find products that will satisfy the demands and expectations of their customers.