As green building becomes more popular, new green building regulations continue to pop up in U.S. cities.  The Aspen Daily News recently highlighted proposed changes to the Aspen Commercial Building Codes that will incorporate very progressive green building strategies.  Among the green building strategies, the proposed codes will “require either a photovoltaic solar panel system [solar panels] or payment into a renewable energy fund to offset exterior features such as snowmelt systems and heated pools.”  The City Council’s proposed enforcement mechanism for the green building codes is particularly of interest.

In the article, Aspen’s chief building official describes the proposed building codes as “all carrot and no stick,” meaning that the codes will rely on incentives instead of penalties for enforcement.  For example, commercial projects will receive from the city “triple the credit for energy generated by the solar panels rather than through payments into the [renewable energy fund].”  Essentially, commercial projects can either invest in solar energy or pay three times as much into the solar energy fund.  Quite the incentive to invest in solar energy. 

The Aspen City Council made a major change to the proposed code by eliminating “a requirement that buildings larger than 25,000 square feet submit to an energy audit every five years, and that the results of that audit be used to apply credit or debit to a particular building’s energy target.”  Good decision, Aspen City Council.  Could you imagine trying to enforce this provision? 

Aspen’s chief building official stated that the city “can find no examples of other municipalities that have implemented a program that requires owners to pay if they do not meet efficiency targets.” I can think of one…