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Green Buildings Ordinance to Change How Denver Does Roofing

On October 29, 2018, the City Council of Denver repealed and replaced a Green Buildings Ordinance.  The original law leading to the enactment of the Green Buildings Ordinance was passed by a public vote in November of 2017. The original law was replaced in order to provide various green building compliance options for new and existing buildings. A number of advocates against the Ordinance have stated it was drafted and passed without the input of roofing industry members.

The Ordinance now requires an owner constructing a building containing  25,000 square feet or more of gross floor area to provide green space, provide on-site solar panels,  provide off-site renewable purchase, demonstrate decreased energy consumption, obtain a LEEDs type certification, or provide a combination of these. The Ordinance further requires new and re-roofed buildings of more than 25,000 square to have “cool roofs,” which are light-colored roofs that meet certain solar reflectance values and are said to mitigate or assist in reducing the urban heat island effect.

Owners constructing new buildings who have not submitted a formal site development plan application with payment of all applicable fees by November 2, 2018, will need to offer green space covering an area equal to 10% of the gross floor area of the building, 60% of the total roof area on the building, or all of the available roof space on the building to comply with the Ordinance.

If owners do not wish to pursue the green space option, they can choose to install on-site solar panels anywhere on the building or zone lot equal to 70% of the total roof area or an area equal to an amount required to provide 100% of the estimated annual electricity used at the building.

Owners who would rather pursue the off-site renewable energy purchase option will need to enter into a minimum 5-year contract for a subscription, lease, or purchase of a share in a voluntary renewable energy program offered by select groups.  The term of purchase must be renewed a minimum of every five years for the life of the building.  Additionally, the off-site energy purchase must cover (i) the equivalent energy production of the estimated 100% of electricity the building will use or (ii) the amount that would have been provided with required on-site solar panels and a demonstration of decreased energy consumption measured as estimated cost savings of a minimum 6% above requirements in the applicable Denver Building and Fire Code.

Instead of a cost savings of a minimum of 6% plus the other off-site requirements, there is an alternative to demonstrate decreased energy consumption measured as estimated cost savings of at least 12% above requirements in the applicable Denver Building and Fire Code.

Another option is to have the building certified as LEED Gold, Enterprise Green Communities, the National Green Building Standard ICC/ASHRAE 700, or an equivalent certification approved by the building official.

Further, combinations of the above are allowed; namely, a combination of green space and on-site solar panels/renewable energy devices, a combination of green space and off-site renewable energy purchase, or a combination of green space and decreased energy consumption.

Finally, however, in lieu of providing green space, an owner may pay an amount to the green building fund of $50.00 per square foot of all green space coverage required.

There are exceptions to many of the requirements; notably, one- and two-family dwellings, dwelling units constructed in a group of three or more attached units in which each unit extends from foundation to roof and is not more than three (3) stories above grade, residential buildings five stories or fewer, less than 62.5 feet in height, and with 25,000 square feet or more of gross floor area, and character defining roofs.

There are different requirements for existing buildings and additions.

As to enforcement of this Ordinance, there are monetary penalties and the City may take legal action to require the construction of a cool roof.

The Denver Development Services have already uploaded a Green Building Declaration Form to their website that must be submitted with permit applications which fall under this Ordinance.

Roofing contractors, developers, and building owners will need to ensure they are up-to-date on all of the specifics of the new Ordinance to avoid issues in obtaining permits to perform roof upgrades and installations.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. Regulations and laws may vary depending on your location. Consult with a licensed attorney in your area if you wish to obtain legal advice and/or counsel for a particular legal issue.