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Telluride Passes Green Building Codes

Council accused of ‘greenwashing’

By Katie Klingsporn Associate Editor Published: Thursday, June 24, 2010 8:10 AM CDT

The Town of Telluride has made much in the way of promises for a greener town — pledging to reduce its carbon emissions and even issuing a region-wide challenge to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. On Tuesday, the Telluride Town Council approved new green building codes that, it hopes, will make strides in that direction. The codes will increase energy efficiency requirements for new buildings and require new homes to offset certain exterior energy uses — like heated sidewalks and pools — with onsite renewable production or a fee. They will also make building more expensive, and the ordinance came under criticism from some in the building and hot tub industry who accused the town of unfairness and green-washing. Despite the blowback, the ordinance passed by a vote of 5-to-2. “We are here to make this town greener,” said council member Bob Saunders. “The bottom line is, we have to try to do the right thing, not only for our community, but for the planet.” Telluride trails both Mountain Village and San Miguel County in this effort; both enacted green building codes more than a year ago. The ordinance has been in the works since 2007, when the town began updating its energy codes and standards. The regulations, which were drafted with the help of The New Community Coalition’s energy specialist Kim Wheels, made their way through at least 10 meetings or work sessions before being finalized. The new codes set stricter standards for energy efficiency by creating greater requirements for insulation, heating and cooling systems, air filtration, snow or ice melt systems, plumbing and ventilation. It ensures that homes will be built to Energy Star efficiency or better, depending on the size of the home, Wheels said. It also creates what’s called the Telluride Energy Mitigation Program. This program would require that homes with snowmelt systems, heated garages, spas or pools offset the energy used by those exterior systems either with onsite renewable energy production or with an in-lieu fee. Wheels said this program is consistent with the green building codes of other mountain towns. “The energy mitigation program for exterior heating is meant to be an incentive to get people to produce onsite renewable energy for those systems. It’s not meant to be a fee-collecting program,” she said. The new codes also require that a mechanical engineer design the heating and ventilating system if a single family dwelling is 3,600 square feet or bigger. And, because of the increased staff time and administration expected to handle the new codes, building fees will be increased by 20 percent. The changes drew the ire of some at Tuesday’s meeting. Harold Wonsel, a hot tub technician, called it green-washing. The town should be doing more by banning heated sidewalks or dealing with the vacant homes that still run lights, he said. “We should be thinking outside of the box. We can’t pat ourselves on the back and wave a green flag unless we do something more substantial,” he said. Builder Kevin Croke said the new codes will create cost burdens on builders. He said that the building community hadn’t been adequately notified and the majority of builders here already are already implementing energy efficient measures. “The whole document is fraught with problems,” Croke said. “If you pass this today I’ll be embarrassed.” And Todd Creel, a real estate broker, said the ordinance unduly punishes just a few because the codes won’t affect everything that has already been built. “I appreciate what you guys are trying to do,” he said. “But I think part of the point you are missing is that the majority of this burden is going to be dumped on a handful of people. … It just seems patently unfair.” Following these comments, council member David Oyster made a motion to continue the matter so town could hold work sessions with the building community. Nobody seconded it, however. The ordinance passed on a 5-to-2 vote, with Oyster and Mayor Stu Fraser casting no votes. Council member Chris Myers said what Telluride is doing is not groundbreaking. Pitkin County passed similar codes in the mid-90s, he said, “and the sky did not fall there. “If someone wants to put a heated garage in, they can do it, but they pay for it,” he said. “If we are really serious about our community and planet, I think we need to take this step.”

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