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Fri, Dec. 06

New P&Z code to focus on green construction

PRESCOTT - Discussions between the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors and the Planning and Zoning Commission have led the county's Development Services Planning Division to create a Residential Conservation Subdivisions ordinance.

To help develop the new code, planning officials established two committees - Sustainable Planning and Green Buildings.

Green building is an effort to build more energy-efficient, healthier and environmentally responsible buildings.

Committee members include planning and building officials, planning and zoning commissioners, representatives from local cities and towns, and contractors, developers and architects.

The supervisors and commissioners will meet jointly Oct. 31, and committee members want to have an actual ordinance ready for consideration.

The two committees met on Friday - sustainable planning in the morning and green buildings in the afternoon.

Over the next two months, the sustainable planning committee will consider mixed use as a matter of right and eliminate minimum lot size and setbacks in subdivisions.

Planning Manager Elise Link said she wants the committees to establish a project checklist that includes a point system. She said this would enable the county to quantify conservation projects.

Checklist areas could include Smart Location and Linkage; Neighborhood Pattern and Design; Green Construction and Technology; and Innovation and Design Process.

A developer designing a subdivision to the standards of the Residential Conservation Subdivision ordinance could win approval of his or her project plans

by administrative review.

Matthew Ackerman of Catalyst Architects said another issue the committee must deal with is water.

Ackerman said the committee should consider civil engineering details, such as curb design, to channel water, increase ground recharge and collection, and offer alternative wastewater treatment.

Ackerman pointed to wetlands as wastewater alternatives; however James Wise of Kelly Wise Engineering said he thought wetlands "are absolutely the opposite of where I think we want to go. They are a waste of water."

Commissioner Tom Reilly said the long-term goal of the green building committee is to "work the International Energy Conservation Code into the county's code. The short-term goal is to start including energy conservation items in the code."

Reilly said the committee would look at three basic areas: water conservation, energy, and alternative materials and methods.

Like the sustainable planning committee, the green building committee is interested in developing a project checklist that could give developers incentives to use green building methods.

The committee members said the water checklist could include plumbing for grey water, dual- flush toilets, harvesting rainwater and choice of landscaping materials.

Committee members recognized the need to educate homeowners and developers about the variety of green building options.

"For the success of any program, incentives are essential," Yavapai County Chief Building Officer Jack Judd said.

One incentive the committee discussed was a shorter plan check turn-around time for green builders.

Developers accumulating points from a checklist could move to the front of the line for plan review.

"Green building is here. However, 90 percent of building departments in the state are not prepared and staff members are not trained," Judd said. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel. Progress begins with the International Energy Conservation Code."

Kurt Holmes said the energy code is not about saving energy.

"It is really about health and safety. Why are governments hesitant to adopt it when it is all about health and safety? Is it because officials like Jack (Judd) would have to hire more people?" Judd said he does not think the issue is the impact of staff members.

"If we were to say we are going to adopt the energy code Jan. 1, the contractors would rebel. Everyone is not on the same page," he said.

Contact the reporter at prhoden@prescottaz.com

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