Dallas Home Builders are Going Green

By: Richard Soto

Dallas is taking the lead - once again - when it comes to environmental responsibility. Dallas home builders will soon move toward greener building standards and will become one of the first major US cities to pass comprehensive building standards for both residential and commercial construction.

Dallas' city council passed an ordinance on April 9, which is designed to reduce energy and water consumption in all new Dallas homes and commercial buildings, thereby reducing the overall environmental impact.

Dallas in the Lead
It comes as no surprise that Dallas has chosen to remain committed to environmental responsibility, as it is currently the number one municipal purchaser of renewable green power in the United States. Dallas also boasts the largest, clean vehicle fleet of any city in Texas and one of the largest in the United States, and was also the only city chosen for the EPA's Sustainable Skylines initiative for improving air quality.

A Green Building Task Force, comprised of members of the residential and commercial development sectors, was created to set new standards for Dallas' private development. It was upon the Task Force's recommendations that city council passed the ordinance that will change the way Dallas homes and commercial buildings are built in Dallas in the future.

A Two-Phase Implementation
The ordinance will be implemented in two stages. Starting in 2009, Dallas homebuilders will build their homes to be 15% more efficient that the base energy code, and will need to meet four out of six high-efficiency water conservation techniques, such as installing faucets and showerheads with a two-gallon-per-minute-or-less water flow.

These regulations will apply to all new Dallas homes and commercial buildings which are smaller than 50,000 square feet.

Phase two, beginning in 2011, will require that all new construction meets the US Green Building Council's Basic Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standard or the Green Built North Texas (GBNT) standard. Home builders must aim for a 20% water reduction and a minimum 17.5% more efficiency than the base energy code.

LEED certification offers third-party validation regarding a project's green features and verifies that the building is efficiently operating. City-owned buildings of 10,000 square feet or more in Dallas have been built to LEED standard for the last five years.

Developing environmentally sensitive construction practices, and encouraging both public and private sector involvement, will further showcase Dallas' commitment to a better environment.

Why Focus on New Construction?
Building construction and operation require a vast amount of resources. In fact, building design, construction, materials and operation consume more energy than any other part of the economy. Therefore, implementing green building techniques will better utilize these resources, while reducing the environmental impact of new construction.

Green building techniques can be implemented through site design, water efficiency, energy efficiency, conservation of materials and indoor environmental quality.

Energy efficient strategies used in green building practices may include effective insulation, high-performance windows, tight construction and ducts, efficient heating and cooling equipment and energy efficient lighting and appliances.

Green buildings lessen the impact of a structure on the environment and also improve the quality of life for its occupants.

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