What Is Denver’s Green Building Initiative?

The Denver Green Building Initiative is a new requirement for new buildings and existing buildings undergoing roof replacements in Denver. You must cover a percentage of a building with green space, solar panels, energy efficiency upgrades or other environmental options. This law is only designed for buildings over 25,000 sq. ft., that need permits after Jan. 1st, 2018.

This law is a more flexible updated version of the original Denver Green Roof Initiative. In November 2017, voters passed the Denver Green Roof Initiative in order to reduce Denver’s Urban Heat Island. The Urban Heat Island effect (UHI) is when urban areas become hotter than the surrounding rural areas due to the large amount of impermeable surfaces, such as concrete parking lots and black rooftops.

Denver is the 3rd highest in UHI; meaning Denver is much hotter (about 23 degrees hotter) in summer than its surrounding rural areas. With only 50% of Denver homes having AC, hotter weather can result in heat-related illness or death.

What Should You Know About Denver’s Green Building Initiative?

Initially, The Denver Green Roof Initiative (passed by voters) was not well received in the development community, because of the cost and the additional hoops to jump through to build in Denver.

To mitigate this, a Green Roof Task Force Committee was formed with local stakeholders after the law passed. After six months, they reached a consensus– creating a Green Building Proposal for Denver’s City Council to vote on.  

Denver’s City Council unanimously voted the new Denver Green Building Initiative into law in October 2018. The City created new rules, regulations, definitions, permitting forms and is hiring additional City staff. The new Green Building Initiative went into effect Nov. 2, 2018. 

Denver’s Green Roof Initiative vs.  Green Building Initiative

The Denver Green Roof Initiative allowed only solar panels, green roofs or a combination to solve environmental problems. The Green Roof Task Force Committee changed the Initiative to create the Denver Green Building Proposal. This proposal address’ the same issues but allow more options for developers. Below we discuss the pros and cons of the new Denver Green Building Initiative over the initial Green Roof Initiative.

What Are The Pros of The New Denver Green Building Proposal?

More Choices

There are 5-8 options to choose from. More flexibility for developers and lower costs.

Prioritizes Affordable Housing Projects

Supports affordable housing projects, cash in lieu prioritizes low-income, affordable housing projects. 

It Applies To Everyone

In the first version about 80-90% of buildings would have been exempt. Now, every developer and every building within the specific criteria has to take action.

Future Incentives

The city of Denver has the opportunity to provide incentives. Other cities like Washington, DC, Chicago, Toronto, and Seattle have incentives to help developers and homeowners incorporate green design. It’s likely that Denver will trend this way in the future.

What Are The Cons of The New Denver Green Building Proposal?

Complicated Permits

Gone are the days of easy permitting– if there ever were any. More options makes this process more complex, and there are repercussions if you get it wrong. The permitting process will take longer, and the city will have to navigate nine options forms, criteria, and regulations.

Additional Work for Architects & Developers

Developers and architects are going to have plenty of additional considerations to review, and hiring an expert will save you time.