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"San Francisco's Green Building Ordinance: All That Glitters..."

August 01, 2008

The City of San Francisco is rightfully proud of its new Green Building Ordinance, which is touted as the toughest command and control Green Building Ordinance in the United States. After all, by 2012 the ordinance is projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 60,000 tons, reduce energy consumption by 220,000 megawatts and reduce potable water use by 100 million gallons. The ordinance will work by imposing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or Build it Green’s GreenPoint (GPR) construction standards on a broad array of commercial and residential projects, including a LEED Gold Standard on new high-rise towers. But imposition of these requirements will come at an estimated annual cost to the city’s economy between $30 million and $700 million, as some developers decide to build elsewhere. These projections clarify that whether the ordinance can achieve its aim and minimize economic loss will depend on its ability to spur or impede new development. Yet a detailed review of the ordinance reveals that it offers many hurdles to developers and few enticements. And in the case of new high-rise towers involving building demolitions, all that glitters may be Platinum.

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