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Denver Passes Strict Green Roof Mandate

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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Voters in Denver passed a measure last week that will give the city the strictest green roof mandate in the country and some officials are saying legal action to combat the vote is still on the table.

What Does the Mandate Say?

The Denver Green Roof Initiative, or Initiated Ordinance 300, passed with 54 percent of the vote last Tuesday (Nov. 7) and not only requires new, large buildings to be construction with green roofs but also requires buildings of a certain size to install green roofs when the current one is up for replacement.

© iStock.com / milehightraveler

Voters in Denver passed a measure last week that will give the city the strictest green roof mandate in the country and some officials are saying legal action to combat the vote is still on the table.

 

The mandate is targeted toward buildings that have at least 25,000 square feet of gross floor space and mandates that builders incorporate rooftop gardens and solar panels. The same is required for existing buildings when the roofs need replaced or when an addition puts a building over that size threshold, according to the Denver Post.

There are aspects of the ordinance that need clarification, however, said Brandon Rietheimer, the initiative’s campaign manager, including the mandates for existing buildings.

Language in the ordinance is supposed to give existing buildings “wiggle room,” Rietheimer said, as it’s understood that some existing buildings might not be structurally able to support the weight that would come with a green roof. Those buildings would be able to file for an exemption, but there has been some debate over whether those exemptions would come with a price tag.

Reaction

The estimated costs for existing building owners is just one of the facets that has garnered opposition. While members of Citizens for a Responsible Denver and other organizations said that they don’t fundamentally disagree with the goals of the initiative, just the decision of a mandate over incentives.

"Incentives will only do a building here and there," Rietheimer said, adding that a mandate will give the green roof market stability. "They can really allocate funds and really bring that industry here to the city, which really drives cost down," he said.

Also in question is how the measure will impact the building climate as well as the city’s $937 million bond package that also passed last week.

© iStock.com / ivanastar

The estimated costs for existing building owners is just one of the facets that has garnered opposition. While members of Citizens for a Responsible Denver and other organizations said that they don’t fundamentally disagree with the goals of the initiative, just the decision of a mandate over incentives.

“We are concerned that it may mean additional costs to some of these projects that we are laying out, in terms of the bond, that we didn’t have programmed in the dollars,” said Mayor Michael Hancock.

The City Council has six months after an initiative is passed by voters to make changes or repeal it entirely with a two-thirds vote. While the mayor and several council members have all but dismissed the option to repeal it, Hancock did say they might make some “tweaks.”

“If there are unintended consequences down the road, they need to be worked out with the proponents,” said Councilmember Kevin Flynn, who said he worried about shopping center owners in his district.

Despite City Council vowing to work with what the people have voted on, Responsible Denver’s co-chairwoman Kathie Barstnar said that the group has not ruled out legally challenging the measure.

What Happens Now

The new ordinance takes effect Jan. 1, 2018, though developers who submit complete building permits or site plan applications by the end of December will be exempt.

   

Tagged categories: Green building; Green roofs; Green Roofs for Healthy Cities; Laws and litigation; Roofing contractors

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