Newsletter: Jul 27, 2022

Increasing Delray's Green Building LEED

Unlike the race between the tortoise and the hare, reaching Delray's goal to increase green building could end up with the tortoise washed away by rising sea levels -- and the hare winning the race, having hopped to higher ground.  An outcome that could be partly the product of the city's own making, which has moved at a tortoise-like pace toward green, sustainable LEED certified building for over a decade.

That is, if Delray doesn't do its part to help reduce the effects of climate change and its Commission gives direction to tighten its green building requirements and stops worrying about developer pushback.

So what is LEED certification and why is it important?  As Ken Edwards, head of the city's Sustainability and Resilience Office told Commissioners at their June 19 Workshop, "It's about reducing green-house gases and energy consumption...climate change...buildings are more than one third of carbon of the best ways to get off fossil fuels is a green building ordinance."  

A task force had been charged with looking into the matter in 2009.  Six years later, in 2015, the green building ordinance in effect today was passed, requiring that new buildings of 50,000 square feet or more in Delray's central business district have a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver designation or its equivalent.  Entry level designation, the first standard of four (Entry, Silver, Gold and Platinum), was not considered at that time.

Then came a Commission directive in 2019 to revise the old ordinance.  The city's Green Implementation Advancement Board (GIAB) recommended that Delray require citywide LEED standards in development projects 5,000 square feet or larger and at the Gold level, not just within the downtown business district.

Public comments and first and second readings of the draft city staff developed from the GIAB report started in 2021.  "Outreach" meetings with the development community and continued discussions with "development interests" concerning the affordability of building at these LEED levels and permitting timing were held through March 2022.  Meanwhile, Palm Beach County had received a Gold LEED certification in 2021, which is about 50% of the green building and business certificates it hands out.  

A re-tooled draft ordinance, the result of those discussions, was presented to the Commission on June 19, 2022 at its Workshop.  The LEED building minimum of 50,000 square feet had been reduced to 20,000, not 5000 as the GIAB had recommended, and the LEED standard was reduced to Entry Level from Silver, rather than raised to Gold.  Both standards would still only apply to the City's core business district.

To put the square footage the Commission was talking about into perspective: City Hall is about 48,000 square feet, according to the Palm Beach County Tax Appraiser.  It's buildings next to the tennis complex, which include the gymnasium and community services spaces total 17,793 square feet - if torn down and re-built (it's of an age where that is likely) it wouldn't have to be "green".  The 20,000 square-foot requirement also would obviously exclude single family homes, townhouse duplexes and smaller buildings and complexes.

"We're a built out small city.  There's not a lot of opportunity for 20,000 but lots for small buildings," Commissioner Ryan Boylston commented during the discussion.  "Miami Beach went to five or seven thousand a long time ago, so I wouldn't be in favor of 20,000 square feet.  I'd rather see four or seven thousand - I'd settle for ten...entry level isn't good enough and absolutely going city wide, not just 50,000 city-wide.  As for push back from developers, revisit how aggressive we are with our green ordinances and be a leader in our state."

"I think it has to be a progression," Commissioner Juli Casale responded after pointing out that the Commission should have started earlier at the lowest level and worked its way up.  "...but I don't think we could jump in with gold, honestly.  I would love to.  I think everybody would love to but I don't think we can and so I'm comfortable with 20,000 square feet."  The current ordinance requires Silver LEED standards.  The draft ordinance, which received Casale's approval, would reduce them to "Entry Level".

Mayor Petrolia suggested earlier that if the ordinance was citywide, the city would have to exclude affordable housing or it would make it hard to find people to build it.  To which Commissioner Casale added, "the ordinance is finally palatable for the entire community" and stated she would want "to move to other parts of the community" later.

Neither Casale nor Petrolia recommended that the existing Silver LEED standard be retained.

The draft ordinance will be up for public comment in the near future.

To watch the discussion on workshop agenda item WS.2, click on:

Best Regards,

The Friends Of Delray Board

Judy Mollica - President

Steve English - Treasurer

Gregg Weiss - Secretary

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