October 6, 2010
Austin Energy Green Building Launches New Requirements, Online Processing
Austin Energy Green Building, which developed the first green building rating tool in the nation in 1991, has refined its rating requirements to help Austin buildings meet broader sustainability goals that include social equity and economic viability. The changes are designed to further advance ambitious City of Austin sustainability goals that include the Zero Energy Capable Homes Plan, the Austin Climate Protection Plan and the Zero Waste Goal.
Under the enhanced requirements, whose release coincides with the roll-out of a new, more stringent energy code, multifamily residential buildings will have the opportunity to earn optional points for a number of measures that increase social equity. These include housing affordability, information accessibility (such as a free Internet access) and multi-modal transportation options.
“Putting equity into the multifamily rating – it means we’re formally expanding the traditional definition of green building,” said AEGB manager Richard Morgan. “We’ve raised the bar. We’re looking beyond kilowatt hours and gallons of water saved, because the building community is really starting to get that."
For homes to earn a 2-star rating under the single family system, builders will have to create a construction waste management plan. This will help the City of Austin reach its Zero Waste Goal of reducing waste sent to the landfill by 90 percent by 2040.
In the commercial sector, design teams for projects that seek to earn a green building rating will have to plan for recycling each of a project's top four waste streams. The new commercial rating will also incentivize access to local, healthy foods, electric vehicle charging stations and healthy, safe materials free of PVCs and phthalates that are added to plastics.
The new requirements will also encourage a move toward what are known as performance-based energy standards. Historically, energy standards have been prescriptive – that is, they specify levels of efficiency for individual building components, such as HVAC systems or windows. Performance-based standards set an energy use goal rather than specifying components, allowing designers to choose the best way to achieve the goal.
“Performance standards encourage design innovation and they let buildings achieve higher levels of energy efficiency in a more cost-effective way than typical prescriptive standards do,” Morgan said.
The Austin City Council adopted new energy code amendments in April. The Zero Energy Capable Homes Plan mandates a series of code changes to make new homes built in 2015 65% more energy-efficient than those constructed prior to 2008 and commercial buildings 75% more efficient. The 2010 amendments increase the efficiency of new homes by 31% beyond the pre-2008 baseline.
New green building projects began using the new rating tools and the online platform at http://greenbuilding.austinenergy.com on October 1, the same day the new City of Austin energy code took effect. The new online capability allows the rating progress to be tracked and viewed in real time and streamlines communication between staff members and building professionals. The new system will also be the depository for project documentation, including construction drawings, specifications, and other submittals and the rating calculations. Staff will be able to quickly answer questions, provide reference materials, and correspond with all members of a project team using a single online platform.