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Building Green? Win/Win!

Posted on Mar 13, 2017 in:
  • Builders
  • Built Green
Two homes completed by TC Legend Homes last year in Seattle.
Two homes completed by TC Legend Homes last year in Seattle. Many projects in Seattle get expedited permits. One of TC Legend Homes’ next projects is targeting Emerald Star!

By Leah Missik, Built Green™ Program Manager

We know that building green is better for the environment. We also know that it is better for home dwellers – who doesn’t like lower bills and better indoor air quality? But is building green better for builders? To be honest, this depends on who you ask. Some of our Built Green members are avid proponents of the program, but at the same time, not every project is Built Green. Therefore, we work hard not only to communicate the benefits of building green to builders, but we also shape the system to make building green even more enticing. A primary way we do this is by working with local government and utility partners on incentives that reward builders who certify their projects Built Green.

Last year, we certified 1,003 projects, which was a continuation of our tremendous recent growth. Much of this growth was concentrated in the City of Seattle. In fact, last year 58% of new single-family homes were Built Green certified! A big reason for our success is our relationship with the City. Seattle offers priority expedited permitting for projects that are certified at 4-Star or higher. Getting a permit faster is a tremendous benefit in this busy market! On top of this, 4-Star or higher Built Green projects may be eligible for a Floor Area Ratio bonus, which allows for extra height or floor area. These incentives compensate for any added costs or effort involved in Built Green, which can be a hurdle, especially for first-timers. Our track record in Seattle clearly demonstrates that builders find these incentives beneficial (otherwise they wouldn’t be utilized!), and that the city is seeing the return in more green housing stock.

Two Built Green 5-Star homes in Kirkland by Dwell Development and CTL Design.
Two Built Green 5-Star homes in Kirkland by Dwell Development and CTL Design.

Seattle is not the only city that offers green building incentives, or indeed, expedited permitting. In 2008, the City of Kirkland pioneered expedited permitting for green projects. Today, Built Green projects that achieve 4-Star or higher are eligible. In addition to offering this incentive, city staff works hard to foster connections between builders and the Built Green program. For example, having spoken with Kim Saunders about her upcoming Juanita Farmhouse Cottages project, David Barnes and Scott Guter from Kirkland’s Green Building team connected her with Built Green. As a result of catalyzing this relationship, Kim made the decision not only to aim for Built Green 5-Star certification for each home, but also to obtain Community certification for the whole development!

Not building in Kirkland or Seattle? No problem! Both Issaquah and Redmond have their own priority permitting programs currently, and both cities are also in the process of strengthening their green building incentives. 

Faster permitting is not the only available reward for green builders out there. Any builder that builds within Cascade Water Alliance’s territory that achieves both Built Green and WaterSense certifications is eligible for a $1,000 per unit rebate. This is thanks to a partnership between Built Green and Cascade. The two organizations continue to work on ideas on how to increase water efficiency in homes.

Other utilities are in the game too! Seattle City Light offers a $1,500 per unit rebate for Built Green projects 4-Star and up that consist of five or more units. Projects are eligible if ductless heat pumps are the primary heating source. Further north, Snohomish County PUD will be announcing a new Built Green incentive very soon!

Queen City EcoVillage by Martha Rose. This is a Built Green certified community in Shoreline.
Queen City EcoVillage by Martha Rose, a Built Green certified community in Shoreline.

Speaking of new incentives, the City of Shoreline’s Planning Commission has passed a Deep Green Incentive Program along to Council for consideration on March 27, with potential adoption April 17. As it currently stands, the incentive rewards builders who are reaching for 5-Star and Emerald Star with waivers of application fees, a density bonus, reduced parking requirements, potential code departures, and more, depending on project location and certification level. This incentive program would be a big support for builders looking to take their craft to the next level by doing deep green.

This is already a long list of incentives, but we’re not done yet! Built Green is constantly working with its partners to figure out how to increase green building in the region. Snohomish County and Bellevue are both looking at programs that would benefit green builders through some manner of cost reductions, flexibility gain, and/or marketing support.

Why are so many cities and utilities willing to work with us? Not only do we live in a region where care for the environment is a strong value, but also because our partners understand that these incentives are a win/win. Clearly, incentives are good for the builders and Built Green. But, these incentives are beneficial to utilities, which need to increase their efficiency, and to cities, which are working to meet climate goals. The more Built Green homes there are, the greater these efforts are furthered. Additionally, cities are made up of people, and who doesn’t want a healthy, efficient home?

As Built Green grows, we will continue to work with our partners on how to make green building even more accessible. We want green building to be the norm. Please let us know if you have any ideas, or feel free to reach out to your representatives and express with green building is important.

 

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