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Helping Green Homeowners Hang Onto Their Green

Ronald O. Loveridge is mayor of Riverside and a past president of the League. He can be reached at rloveridge@riversideca.gov.

Riverside recently became the first city in the state to offer incentives to builders who meet the strong, measurable requirements of the California Green Builder (CGB) program. This cost- effective, turnkey program improves the environment without increasing the city’s workload or costing its taxpayers a penny.

By offering homebuilders incentives that can speed up the building process, Riverside is saving them months of work and thousands of dollars in costs, which should help make green-built homes more affordable than ever before and ensure that more new homes are environmentally friendly.

The city and the homebuilding industry have been working together toward a sustainable Riverside for many years. In addition to water conservation and the landmark Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, city leadership is committed to building environmen tally friendly homes for future growth.

In the summer of 2005, I appointed a Clean & Green Task Force to improve the environment and proactively fight global warming, with the goal of making Riverside a leader in the fight for a greener nation. I believed that a green building program was an important part of that effort, but that it must meet simultaneous goals of providing housing built for less money with quantifiable environmental protection.

After significant research and collaboration with community leaders, scholars, the Riverside Building Industry Association and city council members, I decided that "incentivizing" builders to adopt the voluntary CGB program was the best alternative.

Program Highlights

On June 12, 2007, the city council unanimously approved a program that provides incentives to members of the CGB program. The program, developed by the nonprofit Build ing Industry Institute, has several major environmental benefits:

  • CGB homes are 15 to 20 percent more energy efficient than the state’s toughest-in-the-nation Title 24 requirements.
  • They save at least 20,000 gallons of water a year compared to a typical house.
  • The builders divert at least half of their construction waste from landfills, helping local jurisdictions meet their AB 939 waste diversion mandates.
  • Wood used in CGB homes is harvested from sustainable forest operations.
  • CGB homes produce less than half the carbon dioxide than would be generated during the lifetime of a typical California home.

For those reasons, the California Energy Commission has recognized the CGB program and the California Public Utilities Commission gave it a "Flex Your Power" Award.

Besides helping Riverside "go green," the program is also extremely cost effective for the city because it requires independent third-party certification (not city staff) to ensure that houses are built to meet CGB criteria.

Keeping Costs Down With Incentives

However, building green costs money: up to $6,000 per home under the CGB program and tens of thousands of dollars more if solar panels or other features are added. Riverside recognizes that home buyers are demanding the lowest possible price. To encourage the construction of green homes, the city decided to offer builders non-cash incentives that can pay for most of the extra costs of building green.

Specific incentives include the release of electrical meters before final inspection, guaranteed timelines and a fast-track electric design and water process. CGB developments also will receive priority field inspection service, ensuring that green projects are inspected first.

By offering incentives, the City of Riverside is encouraging homebuilders to participate in the program, while preserving the opportunity of homeownership by keeping costs down.

In the most rapidly growing region of the state, Riverside is leading the way by planning for our future and creating environmentally friendly programs that conserve natural resources and preserve the quality of life for our residents.