Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Austin Green Building Requirements



Austin has its own system rating how "green" apartments are.  Austin Energy assigns buildings one through five stars to show how much they adhere to green building standards.  The standards specific to apartments are called Multifamily and only apply to residential and mixed use developments six stories or less in height.  What exactly are those standards?  Read on for a quick primer on what Green Building means for apartments in Austin.

The city uses a scorecard to decide what a development's overall rating will be.  This scorecard is divided into different categories, each of which contribute to the overall score:  site, energy, water, indoor environmental quality, materials and resources, education and equity, and innovation.  

The site category encompasses environmental factors like environmental sensitivity, brownfield redevelopment (a site previously used for industrial or commercial purposes, that usually has some low level contamination), habitat restoration and protection, and heat island reduction.  It also covers transportation issues like density, diverse and walkable communities, bicycle storage, parking capacity, and public transportation.

The energy section is focused on the energy efficiency of the building and the systems inside, everything from heating and cooling systems to the lighting, both exterior and interior.  There is also a rating for using green energy and having on-site renewable energy. 

The water portion of the scorecard takes into account outdoor water use reduction, building water use reduction, water efficient appliances, and stormwater management.  

Indoor environmental quality covers indoor chemical and pollutant services, green housekeeping, use of natural sunlight to illuminate indoor spaces, and the use of low emitting construction materials as much as possible to reduce offgassing, aka that "new house smell". 

The section on materials and resources covers how the construction waste is managed, whether the amount of building materials used is reduced, durable floor materials, sustainably sourced materials, certified wood, and the use of PVCs and Phthalates, which have been shown in some studies to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.

Education and equity covers more quality of living type concerns such as housing affordability, access to information, car free living, accessibility (for mobility-impaired individuals), construction worker equity (paying them a fair wage), and educational outreach (using the building to educate others on green building techniques).

Finally, the section on innovation awards points to builders who go above and beyond the city-mandated requirements to build an even more energy efficient and earth-friendly building.  An example of this would be onsite composting, but really it is only limited by the imagination and resources of the builder.

Are you passionate about being green and want to live in a community that takes steps to do the same?  Talk to your apartment locator about green apartments in Austin and ask to see their Austin Energy Green Building Score Card. 
 Give A Plus Apartments a call today at 512-231-1400 for help finding apartment communities that share your passion.