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Evanston’s Green Building Ordinance is now complete. When initially passed in October 2009, a portion of that ordinance applicable to interior renovations of commercial buildings was deleted, with the idea that it would be added back at a later date once a newly formed committee made suggestions. The committee reported to Council on Dec. 14, and on Jan. 11 the ordinance adding language applicable to interior renovations was passed.

The original ordinance required all new commercial construction in Evanston of more than 10,000 square feet to obtain silver-level certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. Under the amendment, the requirements for interior renovations of commercial buildings are different from those for new construction in two important ways.

First, renovators have the choice of either obtaining LEED silver certification for their projects or meeting a certain number of environmental measures that are listed in the newly created City of Evanston Sustainable Building Requirements for Interior Renovations (ESBRIR). The ESBRIR list is expected to be changed regularly, as innovations and new environmental concepts are developed over time. Developer and Green Ordinance Review Committee (GORC) member Andrew Spatz hailed the inclusion of an ESBRIR option, saying that going through the LEED process can be time-consuming and expensive. (For the current ESBRIR list in full, go to evanstonroundtable.com.)

Second, the ordinance applies to all commercial renovations, regardless of size. Larger projects, however, must satisfy more environmental criteria than smaller ones. Projects of less than 5,000 square feet must satisfy at least three measures from the ESBRIR list. Projects between 5,000 and 20,000 square feet must satisfy at least five measures; those over 20,000 square feet must satisfy no fewer than seven ESBRIR measures. Paige Finnigan, co-chair of the Evanston Environment Board and GORC member, called the inclusion of all projects, regardless of size, a “big win.”

Renovators must submit a list of ESBRIR measures they expect to fulfill as part of the building permit application. The City’s Building Department “may request documentation of measures employed prior to issuing a Final Certificate of Occupancy,” according to the new law.

During Council discussion, the applicability of the ordinance to smaller projects caused a brief controversy, as First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske attempted to amend the ordinance by eliminating the requirement for spaces under 5,000 square feet. “Less than 5,000 square feet will be a hardship on the community,” she said, “because small businesses might decide to close rather than try to relocate to smaller spaces [which they would have to rehab in compliance with the new ordinance].” Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, initially supported Ald. Fiske.

ESBRIR list in hand, Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson said that three measures from the list would not be “onerous or burdensome.” He added that many such measures would actually produce cost savings and not added costs. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, agreed, pointing out some of the easier-to-achieve measures such as using the proper type of paint. Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, followed by adding that some items on the ESBRIR list would “save a business-owner money for relatively little cost.”

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said, “This is already watered down to the point that it really needs to go through. [The Green Committee has] done a good job, and it’s ready.” Ald. Fiske withdrew her proposed amendment at this point. The ordinance passed by a vote of 8 to 1 with Ald. Fiske casting the only “no” vote.