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SAN FRANCISCO-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s plan to have San Francisco implement the nation’s most stringent building development standards moved a step closer to reality this week. The city’s Building Inspection Commission has voted unanimously to send an ordinance onto the city’s Board of Supervisors for consideration sometime in April. The ordinance requires developers and renovators of larger residential and commercial buildings to achieve progressively higher levels of LEED certification from the US Green Building Council in the coming years, potentially increasing their development costs by up to 5%.

Newsom announced the proposed ordinance in November in front of 555 Mission St., Tishman Speyer’s under-construction office building, for which it hopes to LEED Silver certification. The ordinance requires large projects–commercial and residential projects over 25,000 sf or 75 feet in height–to meet the base level of LEED certification starting in 2008. Large commercial projects would have to achieve LEED Silver certification starting in 2009 and LEED Gold staring in 2010. Large residential projects would have to achieve LEED Silver starting in 2010.

Mid-sized buildings would have to complete a LEED checklist but would not be required to achieve any LEED credits or points (the basis for the rating system) until 2009. Starting then, mid-size commercial buildings would have to achieve three LEED credits. The bar would be raised to four points in 2010, six points in 2011 and seven points in 2012.

Small and mid-size residential projects, starting in 2009, would be required to achieve 25 points from GreenPointRated, a rating system of BuildItGreen, a professional nonprofit membership organization that promotes energy- and resource-efficient buildings in California. The hurdle would increase to 50 points in 2010 and then 75 points in 2011 or 2012. The earlier increase would occur for multifamily residential buildings with more than five units.

Cumulative benefits this ordinance is expected to achieve through 2012 include: reducing CO2 emissions by 60,000 tons; saving 220,000 megawatt hours of power; saving 100 million gallons of drinking water; reducing waste and storm water by 90 million gallons of water; reducing construction and demolition waste by 700 million pounds; increasing the valuations of recycled materials by $200 million; reducing automobile trips by 540,000; and increasing green power generation by 37,000 megawatt hours.

The only large city with strict environmental standards for private construction is Boston. The San Francisco ordinance, which would be more stringent, is based on the recommendations of a task force formed at the start of 2007 that included 10 members from San Francisco’s ownership, developer, financial, architectural, engineering, and construction community. The task force issued its report and recommendations in June 2007.

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