Downtown Development: The LEEDs Trade-Off, AIA 2030 Up Next

Sally Greene suggested trading formal LEEDs certification, which RAM’s VP Casey Cummings said cost $225K, for a required %20 energy reduction, as measured against ASHRAE standards.

Cummings claimed that $14.5K of the $225K involved energy modeling and measurement – the rest involved paper shuffling.

After reviewing the current proposal, it is still not clear that the Town has discussed a baseline with RAM for what a “reduction” entails – let alone a methodology to establish meeting the ASHRAE goals.

That issue aside, if we trade away LEEDs, which as Sally pointed out is an arguably flawed tool (no surprise, local folks pointed that out over a year ago), we still need to establish a firm requirement for a reduced energy footprint and make the commitment to independently establish compliance with that requirement.

In other words, not just take RAM’s word (“trust but verify”).

So, if we spend the $14.5K to verify adherence to LEEDs principles without doing the LEEDs paper-shuffle – well, that seems reasonable in isolation.

But, then again, why are we trading away anything? We’ve already reduced the public space, we’ve upped our public investment 15-fold, we’ve assumed a significant liability for less and less public utility. Our compliant negotiating team let RAM chip, chip, chip away the value.

And why just %20? If RAM pushed for %50, they’d qualify for a hefty tax break – $1.80 per square foot. Heck, they would get $0.60 per square for hitting %17.

Why are we begging them to do the “right thing”?

Luckily, Council will have an opportunity to attenuate their environmental misstep when Tom and company submit the following challenge to Council calling on all local building to meet the much more stringent AIA 2030 goals – a suggestion, at least for Lot #5, that was dismissed almost without comment.

Resolution to the Town of Chapel Hill to Adopt the AIA 2030 Challenge:

Combating Climate Change through Building Design

Whereas buildings in the United States are responsible for 48% of primary energy consumption and 46% of greenhouse gases; and

Whereas current trends indicate that, unless immediately addressed, the amount of energy consumed by buildings will continue to escalate; and

Whereas 7% to 8% of energy consumed in the United States (150 Btus/gallon water) is associated with the treatment and transport of municipal water; and

Whereas to restrict global warming to less than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial era levels will require atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, now at 380 ppm, to be held below 450 ppm; and

Whereas the decisions made today in designing buildings will directly impact the amount of energy consumed by those buildings for decades to come; and

Whereas technologies and skills exist today that enable architects to design buildings to consume a fraction of the energy that is typical of current construction; and

Whereas the American Institute of Architects has adopted the targets of “The 2030 Challenge”, establishing the national goal of immediately reducing “site” fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in new buildings and major renovations by 50%, and continually improving energy performance so buildings constructed in 2030 will be carbon neutral; and

Whereas the Town of Chapel Hill has agreed with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to jointly participate in a carbon reduction program;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Orange County Democratic Party calls upon the Town of Chapel Hill to recognize the imperative of immediately addressing climate change through the buildings built within the Town by taking all necessary steps to insure that all new buildings, major renovations and additions be required to consume 50% less fossil fuel energy than is typically consumed.

Further, in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change associated with the operation of buildings and to reduce greenhouse gas levels to those experienced in 1990, we additionally call upon the Town of Chapel Hill to require the improvement in the energy and water efficiency of our building designs at the following rates until, in 2030, our buildings consume only site-generated and/or purchased renewable energy.

Years % reduction in non-renewable energy
2007 – 2010 50%
2010 – 2015 60%
2015 – 2020 70%
2020 – 2025 80%
2025 – 2030 90%
2030+ 100%

For a Council that appears to be incapable of managing its own environmental concerns, the AIA 2030 challenge might be too much of a stretch.

I hope that I’m wrong and that they’ll rise to the challenge.


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