Worker installs roof top solar photovoltaic panels Denver Colorado home

A worker installs solar power panels on a rooftop in Denver.

To help move Denver closer to its goal of having new construction projects achieve net zero energy by 2035, City Council is weighing Monday night whether to adopt the Denver Green Code.

The voluntary building code is based on international standards for more sustainable construction and would help the city lower its greenhouse emissions, of which buildings contribute more than 60%, according to city documents.

“This code cycle is an option,” said Scott Prisco, the city’s chief building officer, during a City Council infrastructure committee meeting on Dec. 3. “But in the next code cycle, much of this code will be mandatory so that we’re moving things forward in a big way.”

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If adopted, Denver’s Community Planning and Development plans to pilot the new Denver Green Code in 2020. The code, which is similar to the LEED program, establishes optional standards to create “a more sustainable, high-performance building.”

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a rating system used by the U.S. Green Building Council to measure the sustainability and resource-efficiency of buildings. The Denver Green Code would encompass many elements of the LEED program, such as water conservation and quality, lighting requirements for energy efficiency, solar capabilities and electrical vehicle charging stations.

If the legislation passes, multiple city agencies will work together to pilot five commercial projects, which will be expedited with a possible fee reduction. The initiative will also be coupled with five affordable housing projects.  

Not many other municipalities across the country are doing this, Prisco said. “Denver’s at the forefront. It’s an important step to get our big-picture goals.”

In other eco-friendly business, City Council will hold a public hearing Monday night for a proposal to charge consumers as early as July 1, 2020, a dime for every plastic or paper bag they use to carry home their goods and groceries.

“This is just a first step” said Councilwoman Kendra Black, who is leading the bill alongside council members Stacie Gilmore, Deborah Ortega and Jolon Clark. “It is time for Denver to do this. But we need to do more."

An estimated 250 million bags are used by Denver residents every year, according to the city. The proposal would give retailers 4 cents from every grocery bag sold, and the city would pocket the other 60%.

Black’s proposal also has the support of Mayor Michael Hancock, spokeswoman Theresa Marchetta said, although he personally prefers a ban.

“The mayor has always been more supportive of a ban, but he listened to advocates and heard a fee is more impactful to promote behavior change first,” she said. “He sees this as a step.”

Stakeholders supporting the measure include the Colorado-Wyoming Petroleum Marketers, Colorado Retail Council and the Downtown Denver Partnership, among several others.

City Council is positioned to vote on the measure Dec. 23. The proposed ordinance is likely to pass with support from 11 of 13 members. If passed, the fee is expected to go into effect mid-2020, and a task force will be formed the following year.

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