CITY HALL — Already known as a leader in environmentally-friendly development regulations, Santa Monica officials are proposing new green building requirements that could make the city one of the strictest places to build single family homes in the nation.

“The green building requirements that the city has had have mostly focused on everything but single family homes,” said Brenden McEneaney, Santa Monica’s green building program advisor. “That’s been the last part of the market to come into the fold.”

The most notable new regulation City Hall is proposing, McEneaney said, is aimed at improving insulation in low-rise residential buildings to increase energy efficiency. He said he’s not aware of any city that has already adopted a similar requirement.

The proposal would require new homes to go through a more thorough insulation inspection that could increase building costs by a dollar to several dollars per square foot, though McEneaney said City Hall hasn’t yet conducted a complete analysis of the potential costs. He said he expects increased energy efficiency and lower costs for heating and cooling systems to offset the added cost.

City Hall is holding its first public meeting on the proposed new requirements today at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Monica Main Library.

For the past 10 years Santa Monica has maintained building standards that require projects to be 10 to 15 percent more efficient than state law requires, McEneaney said, and the new proposals include a mandate for new construction to be 15 percent more efficient than the state’s latest standards.

The new proposals also would require developers to use water efficient urinals and to divert 70 percent of construction and demolition waste from landfills, among other requirements.

David Hertz, a Santa Monica architect who sits on a City Hall Task Force on the Environment, said the requirements would be a positive step toward keeping the city a leader in green development.

“I think the more that we can do to understand efficiency measures the better,” he said.

Hertz downplayed the potential for new rules to discourage development because of increased costs.

“A lot of times the misconception on green building is that there’s a significant increase in cost,” he said.

Regarding the proposed rule designed to improve insulation in homes, Hertz said, “Insulation is the cheapest and most important thing that you could do with your building … . I can’t imagine it being a hardship.”

But McEneaney said he believes the insulation proposal could become controversial because it is geared toward individual homeowners. Most other environmental building requirements apply mainly to commercial developments and don’t directly increase costs for families.

He defended City Hall’s move to strengthen requirements, though, noting Santa Monica has long been at the forefront when it comes to environmental mandates.

To improve the building industry’s environmental performance, he said, more stringent requirements are needed.

“In general, this is an industry that has been reluctant to change. Major changes have only come because of requirements,” he said.

To take effect, the proposals would have to be approved by the City Council, which could consider the requirements as early as spring of 2010.

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