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Asheville City Council Adopts Carbon Emission Reduction Standards and Sets LEED Standards for City Buildings

At their recent meeting, the Asheville City Council adopted carbon emission reduction goals and set LEED standards for new city buildings. Council committed to reducing carbon emissions by 2 percent per year until the city reaches an 80 percent reduction from baseline year emissions (2001-2). In a second vote, City Council resolved that all new city buildings over 5,000 square feet will be LEED certified Gold and buildings less than 5,000 square feet will be LEED certified Silver. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the national green building standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Asheville City Council voted last December to make new city buildings LEED certified, but did not specify what level of certification the city should pursue. Council’s recent action places Asheville as a leader in North America. Only four other cities have adopted LEED Gold certification: Fort Collins, CO; Portland, OR; Scottsdale, AR; and Vancouver, BC.

The moves were prompted by recommendations from the Sustainable Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE). The committee was created by City Council in fall 2006 and directed to develop recommendations on energy conservation goals for city operations and on LEED standards for new city buildings. The committee has been meeting bi-weekly since the end of January.

In examining energy conservation goals, SACEE looked at communities across the nation and consulted with ICLEI, an international nonprofit that works with membership governments on results-based sustainable development initiatives. “Our committee considered what cities across the country are doing and set reasonable, achievable goals,” said Margie Meares, SACEE co-chair. “We are aware of other cities that have set impressive goals and are reaching them.” SACEE also cited the need to set goals commensurate with the problem of global warming. An 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions is currently seen as the level needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

SACEE also examined the costs and benefits of the different LEED certification levels; there are four levels of certification ranging from Certified to Platinum. “We found that the Gold certification held a small cost increase over Silver certification, but the payback on energy savings was much higher, making it a good investment,” said architect and committee member Jane Mathews. “In addition, the cost of ‘green’ materials is decreasing nationwide, making the cost of constructing to LEED standards much lower.”

The Sustainable Advisory Committee praised the City Council vote. “We are excited that the city of Asheville is joining other cities in taking a leadership role on these issues,” said Sasha Vrtunski, SACEE co-chair. “Climate change aside, these moves will help create a healthier environment for citizens of Asheville and ultimately save city government money.” SACEE plans to move forward with community outreach and education and to develop an action plan to meet the city’s new goals.

For more information, contact Public Works Director Mark Combs at (828) 259-5935.

(Image provided by the City of Asheville.)

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