New Sustainability Ordinances for Construction Enacted in Florida and Colorado Cities

 The City of St. Petersburg, Florida is one of the latest municipalities to incorporate the concepts of sustainable construction, sometimes referred to as “green building”, into the requirements of their municipal code.  On April 26, 2019, the City adopted Ordinance No. 359-H; which requires City-owned buildings over 5,000 square feet, which are either existing and being substantially modified or are being newly constructed, to achieve a rating of LEED Gold from the U.S. Green Building Council.  

The new ordinance makes clear that the purpose of adopting the sustainability requirement is to uphold the City’s responsibility to lead by example. The City is focusing on its goals of becoming a more sustainable community by pressing the conservation of resources, a reduction of waste, and increased energy and water efficiency for its own facilities.

The new ordinance also applies to City-funded municipal infrastructure projects exceeding $2,000,000.  For these projects, the work must achieve a Gold rating under the Envision program, a sustainable construction framework developed by the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure.  While compliance with the sustainability requirements is not mandatory for non-qualifying municipal projects (or private projects), the ordinance furthers the City’s overall goals by also requiring that all City construction projects implement LEED or Envision principles even if certification is not required. 

The City of Denver also recently enacted a revised, stricter sustainability ordinance.  It requires property owners to use a “green roof” design to incorporate either reflective roof surfaces, solar panels or green space/vegetative roofs.  Subject to a few exemptions, the Denver ordinance applies to all new construction and renovations of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.  The stated purpose of the Denver ordinance is to reduce the “heat island” effect associated with urban environments, which are prone to capturing and retaining solar heat.  In a suburban or rural environment this heat gain is reduced by the presence of larger areas of plant life and vegetation.  If not feasible for a certain project, the Denver ordinance also gives property owners the alternative of either obtaining a LEED Gold certification for the entire project, purchasing off-site renewable energy credits or paying an additional per-square-foot development fee.  The fee revenue would be invested in other municipal projects to advance the City’s sustainability goals.  Denver became the second U.S. city to enact a green roof requirement after San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2016.