Draft legislation could require LEED certification for new Athens city buildings
By CG Editor-in-Chief Erich Hiner
An ordinance being drafted by an Athens City Council member could require new city buildings to be constructed using eco-friendly building methods.
The ordinance, written by Athens City Councilman Elahu Gosney, D-at large, would require city-funded buildings over 5,000 square feet to be built to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, or LEED.
LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification process. LEED-certified buildings have energy saving measures such as water-saving bath fixtures and energy-efficient heating systems.
“We want to make sure that if it’s two years down the road, five years down the road, ten years down the road, however far in the future … the next building that we put a lot of money into in the city is built with these principles in mind,” Gosney said.
The LEED system awards points to structures based on how well they increase energy efficiency, reduce water and construction waste, cut carbon dioxide emissions and encourage sustainable habits. Click here to see a full list of what LEED measures.
Building to LEED standards would mean using more expensive, but more eco-friendly building materials. In some cases, it might mean using solar panels or double-paned windows.
The system ranks buildings on a scale of “certified” to “platinum.” Gosney’s ordinance would require new buildings to have silver certification, the third highest LEED ranking.
In addition to new structures, the ordinance would require major renovations of city buildings to be LEED-certified. The ordinance would not apply to construction or renovation projects done by Ohio University.
Gosney said building new structures to LEED standards would mean more expensive construction, but long-term savings. The improvements would pay for themselves by cutting down on electricity costs over time, he said.
“It’s really a short-term cost versus long-term savings issue,” Gosney said. “If you’re going to be spending so much money on a property, you might as well do it right, and that will pay back in the long term.”
Gosney said the green building requirements would make up 1 to 1.5 percent of total construction costs.
Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht said the higher building standards could take decades to pay for themselves, but that requiring them is a sound investment.
“Some of them cost a lot and the payback can be 15 to 20 years,” Hecht said. “However, when you buy a furnace for your home, that’s how long you expect to keep it.”
As of now, the city has no plans to build any structures that would fall under the ordinance, Hecht said. A new fire station would be large enough to fall under the ordinance, but no plans are in the works for such a building, Hecht said.
Gosney said the ordinance has solid support on council.
Athens City Councilman Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, said the ordinance is a good way to “green things up” and save money in the long term.
Gosney expects to introduce the ordinance when council meets March 21.