Benicia homeowners who add 600 square feet to their homes or have home renovation projects valued at $20,000 or more will be encouraged to make the projects energy and water efficient. The City Council voted on Tuesday to amend the California Green Building Standards Code so it applies to room additions as well as new single family homes in Benicia.
The California Green Building Standards Code that took effect on January 1 requires new home construction to include energy and water conservation measures and to cut down on the amount of construction waste going to landfills. The law also allows cities to adopt amendments that are stricter than state law.
The ordinance adopted by the council on a three to one vote encourages home renovation projects of 600 square feet or more or residential construction projects valued at more than $20,000 to include energy efficiency upgrades.
The cost of the required efficiencies doesn't have to exceed two percent of the project cost.
The ordinance lists a variety of efficiencies like low-flush toilets, energy-efficient lights fixtures and double-paned windows.
Currently, for renovations that add more than 500 square feet, home-owners are required to make a monetary donation to local schools based on a percentage of the project's total cost.
During her weekly office hours Mayor said the increased costs could be recouped. "At the end of the day there are really great cost savings," said the mayor. ""With some of these thing you can recover your cost in the first year."
Sustainability Commissioner and local businessman spoke of the upgrades he voluntarily made to his home during renovations. The energy upgrades cut his energy bill in half, despite the renovations tripling the size of his home.
Vice-Mayor opposed the ordinance, suggesting that Benician's already lean towards green features in their homes. He also wanted to defer implementation of the ordinance.
Councilman 's concern was about the word requirement, which he feared could cause knee-jerk reactions from the public.
Karen Burns was concerned about the ability of those on fixed incomes to pay the extra costs associated with the new ordinance. Public Works Director said that considerations could be made for qualifying low income home-owners.
The possibility of delaying the new code for up to a year was discussed, which would allow the Building Division time to gather statistics on how many home-owners voluntarily include green upgrades during renovations.
That was idea ultimately rejected in favor of a review of the program in nine months. After the review the council can decide if the ordinance needs adjustment.