Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taos Adopts High Performance Building Programs

Taos Joins 2030 Challenge...

The Town Council of Taos, New Mexico on February 24, 2009 unanimously approved the Taos High Performance Building Ordinance. The new ordinance is the culmination of a yearlong effort by Town officials and staff, citizen volunteers, and Sage West Consultants to encourage energy-efficient construction using the Town’s building code.

Attorney Maija D. West, Architect Alix W. Henry, and Earth Scientist William M. (Bill) Brown formed Sage West Consultants in 2008 to assist the Town in shaping the new high performance building programs authorized under the new ordinance. “This type of ordinance is being crafted for cities, towns and states throughout the USA,” say West and Henry. “It represents a necessary move toward building a new economy based on energy efficient design, clean energy systems, and energy affordability not possible with our current building stock.”

“The work being done here in Taos is an outstanding model for southwestern communities,” says Brown. “The new ordinance was developed around the unique demands of our community. It fits our local climatic conditions and the Town’s in-house administrative abilities. It nurtures and supports our local building industry. It strives to ensure that money spent on energy circulates within our community rather than flowing to out-of-state energy providers."

The new ordinance provides building permit applicants with flexible, phased approaches to construction and retrofits of residential and commercial buildings in Taos. Residential construction must meet Home Energy Rating System (HERS) standards that phase in gradually from 2009 through 2012 and beyond. Commercial construction must meet Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified standards – the minimal level of LEED performance – beginning in 2009. Sage West Consultants recommended HERS and LEED standards because they offer builders wide latitude to innovate and low- or no-cost solutions in creating energy efficient buildings.

The Town of Taos took a major leadership role in implementing the ordinance by requiring that all Town-owned and Town-funded buildings meet the new energy-efficiency requirements. “Taos showed consistent, strong leadership in setting a new course for the future,” says Brown. “Mayor Darren Cordova and ex-Mayor Bobby Duran both set clear directions for our Town Council and citizens about the dimensions of the ordinance. Town Attorney Allen Ferguson worked wonders to assist us with language and clarity that reflected the instructions of our Mayors and Town Councilors.”

The ordinance provides builders with the option of paying fees in lieu of compliance, and these fees will go into a fund to assist qualified low-income citizens in improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

“Taos demanded from the outset that the ordinance should relieve the burden of rising energy costs for those least able to afford them,” says Mayor Darren Cordova. “We look forward to the Town continuing to assist its low-income citizens through weatherization retrofits, inspections, and education on energy savings as funded through the ordinance.”

Mayor Cordova noted that small towns in the USA have been highly effective in finding clean energy solutions. “Local governments are on the frontlines of planning and development, and play extremely important roles in creating energy efficiency,” he said. The new Taos ordinance also is perfectly timed to take advantage of the nation’s economic stimulus package, and to demonstrate our role in our nation’s economic recovery and moves toward energy self-sufficiency.”

“I am impressed with the level of community effort on this ordinance,” said Long Range Planner Matthew Foster. “More than 50 citizen volunteers and our consultants worked long hours together with Town officials to make the effort succeed. Taos is well positioned for high performance construction by virtue of its remarkable history. We are a high desert community with a long history of sustainable building.

We are continuously working to reduce our greenhouse gases emissions while anticipating predicted water shortages.” “But more important,” Foster added, “Taos today exhibits an outstanding spirit of cooperation among our businesses, our residents, our public utilities and our city and county government for creating an economical energy future.”

In a separate vote, the Taos Town Council approved the 2030 Challenge Resolution to create carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030. Taos joins the State of New Mexico, the City and County of Santa Fe, and the City of Albuquerque in the national and international spotlight of adopters of the 2030 Challenge.

“The resolution is consistent with Taos’ endorsement in 2007 of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the resolution on Sustainability, and the resolution adopting the EPA's Energy Star Challenge,” said Foster. “These actions by our Town Council voice our Town’s continuing responsiveness to the quality of life in Taos for present and future generations.”

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