Power Play

Tuesday September 10, 2002

With the need for more housing and economic growth in apparent conflict with the need to protect the environment, Berkeley has developed a new program for commercial and multi-family building projects that promotes sustainability and energy conservation that will also help meet the housing and commercial needs of Berkeley residents. 

The Berkeley’s Best Builders (BBB) is a free program that helps developers remodel or construct buildings that use less energy and water, provide better lighting and indoor air quality, and are generally better for the environment than traditionally-constructed buildings. The BBB consultants’ expertise includes nontoxic material specification, renewable energy, advanced daylighting technologies, solid waste management, indoor air quality, water conservation, transportation, and several other topics.  

More than two dozen development projects have already come through this program that is managed by the not-for-profit organization the Green Resource Center. Free design assistance is available from many of the country’s leading experts on indoor air quality, non-toxic building materials and furnishings, renewable energy and conservation. The intent is to create buildings that have a healthier indoor environment, with lower occupant turnover and operational costs.  

The BBB program is the city’s first step in its new Green Building Initiative, which is intended to make green building the “business as usual” choice for all remodels and new construction in Berkeley. Green buildings have the advantage of using fewer of the world’s resources while being overall more comfortable and healthy to live and work in than traditionally constructed buildings.  

Contractors and developers who are not familiar with green building, and are working on a new project in Berkeley may use a free BBB consultation to gather some new ideas that may save them operational costs in their development project, and improve the indoor quality and energy costs for its occupants.  

For those developers already familiar with green building, a BBB consultation may be used to consult a specialist about a particular environmental problem with the project, including advanced daylighting designs to reduce overall lighting costs, such as the number of fixtures or the wattage of lamps. In order to make the best use of these consultations, they should be done very early in the pre-design phase of a project, before building design has been started. 

To qualify for the BBB program, the project should not yet have been submitted for permits. Rehabilitations, new construction and gut/rebuilds are all acceptable types of projects. 

Berkeley staff, in consultation with leading green professionals have developed the Green Building Primer, which introduces basic green building concepts and techniques, plus, the Reference Guide to Existing Green Building Regulations, which fully describes all environmental building requirements from federal, state and local authorities in one package, and gives helpful tips on compliance. Both are available to developers intending to build in Berkeley. Copies may be obtained through the Office of Economic Development, 2118 Milvia St. 

The BBB program is fully subscribed at the moment, attesting to the desire for green design assistance. All interested designers, architects, and developers who would like to know more about the program should contact Edward Guilig, program manager, at 845-5106.  

Berkeley’s Green Building Initiative, developed in consultation with the local design and construction community, has set the goal of making green building the business-as-usual choice in Berkeley. With more than two dozen successful consultations carried out to date, Berkeley’s Best Builders is our first step in that direction.  

- Alice La Pierre is an energy analyst for the city of Berkeley. She promotes green building and energy conservation in Berkeley.