Ukiah, CA Green Building Program

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Ukiah, CA, US

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

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The City of Ukiah has adopted a green building education and incentive program. The program promotes the use of green building materials and techniques in construction projects to reduce waste and inefficient resource use, reduce pollution and reduce toxicity in the places we live and work, and reduce greenhouse gases. The program is geared towards all construction projects and includes free information about alternative building materials and products, site design techniques, architecture, energy, and ways to reduce waste in the construction process.

Green Building is a comprehensive approach to construction and design practices that consume fewer materials and energy over the lifetime of the building while comfortably and safely protecting the occupants. The program guidelines are designed to provide cost effective suggestions to minimize waste, create healthier and more durable homes, reduce operational costs and support local manufacturers and suppliers of resource efficient building materials.

The program also includes incentives for building with alternative materials and products, and using green building site design and architecture techniques. These incentives include permit fast-tracking, local “green” certification, and eligibility for the Ukiah green building awards program.

The Green Building Program is about improving our design and construction practices so that structures built today will last longer, cost less to operate and provide a healthier environment. Building Green requires thorough planning, thoughtful design and quality construction. We tried to design a program that will be flexible enough to accommodate technological changes and updated design changes. We welcome your comments on the viability of the program and suggestions for improvement.

Sustainable Development and Green Building

Sustainable Development: The construction, operation and maintenance of buildings can have tremendous impacts on our natural resources and surrounding environment. As the human population demands more resources from a finite world, it makes sense to seek more efficient building methods, materials and design principles. This broad field requires ongoing individual and community education. The City of Ukiah wants to more ecologically sound building practices easy to use by providing information to the community and exploring possible incentives for those who choose to build green.

Green Building Design: Green building design is a emerging but diverse field. Here in Ukiah, builders are beginning to use green building techniques and sustainable products in their projects. The market for green homes is growing and local buildings are taking advantage of this interest. Green building is a “Whole- Systems” approach for designing and constructing buildings that conserve energy, water, and material resources and are healthier, safer, and more comfortable. Built it to Scale: Building to scale means building only what is needed for the people who will occupy the building. Creating a smaller footprint by building to scale can reduce use of resources, including land, energy and materials.

Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency begins with decisions about the site, its relationship to the environment, the building envelope, the building itself and its operation Optimizing R-Value (insulation), minimizing infiltration (air leaks), and using passive solar applications (daylighting and heating/cooling through design based on the sun) allow for efficient use of sustainable fuels to operate the building. Double-paned, low-emission windows are another major component in maintaining a comfortable environment inside the building while weather patterns vary outside.

Installing and maintaining the most energy efficient appliances to meet occupant needs is saved energy and money. Lighting systems, heating/cooling equipment (HVAC) and hot water, as well as fans and motors all provide significant opportunities for energy savings. Energy efficiency practices are basic elements of programs like Energy Star and LEED certification. The City of Ukiah Utilities Department offers financial rebates for installing energy efficient appliances and windows and can answer your questions about energy conservation strategies. Site Inventory and Assessment: Every building is exposed to natural forces that will affect its performance. An assessment of the site of an existing or future building will allow the designer, contractor or operator to include green building tools.

Begin by making a site inventory:

  • Orientation to the sun: Where is the south/southeastern and western exposure?
  • Major physical features, both natural and built: Include slope, trees, nearby structures, native plants and habitat, and other existing landscaping. Consider how these elements affect shading or air flow.
  • Wind direction and intensity
  • Water table and soil type
  • Proximity to work, school, services. Calculate mileages.
  • Anticipated footprint of structure.
  • Availability of other alternative energy possibilities: hydroelectric, ground-source heat pumps, wind, or onsite generation possibilities.

This basic information is a reference to find out which efficiency approaches make the most sense for you.

Follow with a site assessment:

  • Good solar access can result in significant savings with either passive solar design strategies or solar electric applications.
  • Minimize destruction of native plants, habitats and water cycles. This will reduce the need for irrigation and save on landscaping costs.
  • Well-established trees and shrubs make great cooling systems through shading and evaporative cooling and act as a barrier to the wind.
  • Most grades or slopes define water movement and often air movement as well. Since both moisture and cool air flow downhill, be sure to consider the specific microclimate of your building site.
  • Drainage and moisture can strongly influence the durability of a structure. Avoid soggy soil and wetlands for new construction -- use French drains and low toxicity, pressure-treated lumber for renovations at wet sites.
  • Driving is the single largest impact a person can have on the environment. Location and drive time also are quality-of-life issues.

Green building also can include a smaller footprint. Less square footage reduce use of resources, including land, energy and materials. Put those savings into use of natural materials. Natural, local and sustainably made products are good choices to consider.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The three Rs can be a test of innovation. The leading edge of resource efficiency is in recycled materials. Your building site, home or business is an opportunity to reduce unneeded consumption, reuse valuable and costly materials, and recycle waste into a useful product.

During construction and operation of your home or business, use materials with recycled content that are recyclable at the end of their lifecycle. Paper products, flooring materials, ceramic tile, even some brands of paint are sold with recycled content. If buying new, select durable materials that use their base resource most efficiently.

Purchase or donate reusable materials for cost savings and to ease the burden on our landfills. The Ukiah Community Center operates a Reuse Store for building materials.

Water Conservation: Using native, drought-tolerant plants, and low-flow showerheads and toilets will save water. In some areas, innovative water catchments, aquifer re-injection, on-site stormwater treatment in the form of ecoroofs and swales and other technologies are emerging. Even rain barrels are being reintroduced. Water conservation can save electricity too.

Alternative Methods and Materials and the Building Code: The construction industry is standardized and regulated through building codes and permit processes. The building code and green building share the design goals of strength, durability and longevity. However, emerging products and techniques for ecological design can be considered under the Alternate Materials and Methods process of the Building and Specialty Codes. This process provides an opportunity to meet the intent of a code requirement without meeting the precise letter of the code. Examples of successful proposals in recent years include several variations of strawbale construction for single family residences, and alternative forms of concrete.

While the burden of proof that a method or material meets the code is on the designer, builder or developer, City officials would like to create an environment and process that encourages consumers to look at green building options. The City Planning and Community Development Department is exploring ways to achieve this goal, and welcomes your insights and suggestions. Email us at: [email protected].

Multiple Functions: Many products or building methods can be designed to meet more than one goal. Integrated design includes an assessment of needs and attributes with an eye for combining uses. An example of integrated design is use of ‘steam’ which can power turbines (mechanical energy) and heat a building. Trees and shrubs can combine shading with a wind break that also can utilize gray water and be used to hold soil on a slope in place. The possibilities are endless. Integrated design can add a major educational component to a building. Green building practices are being embraced by school systems as healthier and more durable, as well as lending an educational element about natural principles and basic science.

Low Impact Development (LID): LID is a sustainable storm water management strategy that manages storm water at its source and collects rainwater for secondary use. It generally distributes storm water across a project site to replenish groundwater supplies rather than sending it downstream in a large storm water management facility. The LID approach integrates infrastructure, architecture, and landscape -- promoting the use of roofs of buildings, parking lots, swales, rain barrels, and other cost effective methods -- to place rainwater back into the ground or collect it for reuse.