A voluntary green building program in Santa Barbara County, Calif., is thriving as a result of a strong set of incentives. Primarily, if a project is approved as “green” by a special county commission, local officials guarantee that building permits will be approved within two weeks.
“They go right to the head of the line,” says builder Dennis Allen of Allen Construction Co., who helped implement the program. Normally, he says, there is a four- to six-week lag before permits are issued. In other words, builders can expect to gain up to a month by meeting greenness requirements set forth by the county. Other benefits of building green include a 50% reduction in plan-check fees, the use of a “green” logo in marketing materials and a special commendation from the board of supervisors.
California’s stringent energy-efficiency code (Title 24) forms the basis of the program, but two years ago commission members began adding points for plans that employ the use of low-VOC paints and finishes, recycled wood products and other green building materials.
Make no mistake, Allen says, permitting homes in Santa Barbara remains anything but quick. Securing planning entitlements there remains notoriously slow and can typically take “years.”