Five Ways to Build Green Communities on a Limited Budget

To encourage the expansion of green communities, cities and counties are offering a wide variety of incentives to developers to support sustainable design and construction.

American City & County's July issue features a viewpoint from Monica Sloboda, vice chair of the Real Estate Practice Group for Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Morgan Miller Blair law firm, that lists five non-monetary incentives that cities and counties have developed to encourage the construction of sustainable projects.

Number one is density bonuses that allow developers to build projects with higher floor area ratios or other density measures if they satisfy specified green standards, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) point-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

While direct economic incentives remain important to encourage sustainable development, a city's inability to offer those incentives does not necessarily mean that it will not be able to encourage green building. The investment of time, energy and creativity to increase the types of non-economic incentives could make a significant difference in a city's ability to encourage sustainable development during times of financial challenge.


The big picture

These all sound like good short term solutions to our sustainability problems but in the long term the following should be considered in our planning. I think that sustainability will happen naturally from the bottom up. As people make less money (have less energy), the lower classes and lower middle classes will dominate and control the market. Top down government incentives will not work as effectively. People will buy what they can. They will live where they can. Nothing is ever mentioned about the real cost of algae produced biofuels or Shale produced natural gas or the cost of a LEED built building. Automobles and air transportation will be for the upper class and eventually become a thing of the past. (the energy cost per pound mile of air transport is about 100 times more than train or truck.) Higher taxes caused by government incentives and the higher cost of more complex technologies will only mean less money available to pay for these things. I can already see this happening.