On St. Patrick’s Day, just about everybody said their favorite color was green, but I want the new council members to promote that color all year round.
Al Gore won an Academy Award for his green message. The comprehensive plan adopted a few years ago said Forest Park needs more green. Even our nation’s president talks like he has converted to green.
Everybody seems to be for the environment, but who is willing to take political risks or make financial sacrifices to make it happen?
Even Gore, it has been reported, uses far more energy in his home than you or I do. It’s like eating right. Everybody’s for it, and we’ll begin tomorrow, or the day after ….
Well, the city of Chicago sometimes comes up with some pretty good ideas, and here’s one of them that at least gives us a picture of how we as a village might proceed to make our home town greener. Jim Nowak, a friend of mine who is an architect in Chicago and has helped design at least one big project on the Miracle Mile, told me what Mayor Richard Daley has been doing to promote green in the city.
The city encourages developers to get their projects LEED certified.
LEED is the acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council, a third-party organization independent from the city or developers. It’s a rating system in which developers get credit for every environmentally friendly addition to their projects, like the use of recycled or renewable materials.
If the project gets enough LEED credits, USGBC gives the developer a silver, gold or platinum award. If the developer then presents the award to the city, Mayor Daley’s people will waive some fees and, more importantly, will promise to have the permit review completed in three months, “something very close to a developer’s heart-time and money,” according to my architect friend. USGBC knows that for business people time is money, but the organization contends that green is also money. They argue that the added investment needed to construct a green building gets paid back many times over in energy savings.
Imagine that, getting rewarded for doing the right thing.
Here’s how it might work in Forest Park. A developer comes to our village hall and asks for a building permit. The clerk describes the LEED program and then explains the incentives. That’s where the village council would need to install rewards for the developer.
Incentives might include the waving of fees or tax breaks.
The LEED program has some 60 ways for developers to get credits. Here are a few of them:
Right now, many homes and businesses channel the rain water from their roofs right into city storm sewers. You can get a credit for diverting some of that water into the soil or for storing it in a tank and using it to flush your toilet. We use millions of gallons of treated, potable water to flush our toilets and water our plants.
If you have a parking lot (the village has several), reserve prime parking spaces for vehicles passing high emission standards.
When building a parking lot, make the surface water-permeable. I believe the YMCA is planning on doing that.
Install a vegetated roof for at least 50 percent of the roof area to reduce what they call the heat island effect.
It will cost some green to create more green in our village. How the LEED program replies is that in the long run it doesn’t cost as much as you might think, and if we don’t do something significant we are setting our grandchildren up for disaster.