Green building fee battle

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Archives - December 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007

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PORTLAND At November’s Greenbuild International Conference in Chicago, Portland city commissioner Dan Saltzman unveiled a mandatory carbon fee plan for new construction in Portland. Back at home, builders rolled out the first draft of their own voluntary plan to encourage green building practices. Some say they were surprised about Saltzman’s announcement.

Proposed by Saltzman’s Office of Sustainable Development, the mandatory plan calls for new buildings to exceed Oregon’s energy efficiency requirements by 30% (about equal to LEED gold certification) by 2010 or be fined. The revenue would be used to reward businesses that exceed standards by 45% (LEED platinum certification). Existing homes for sale would require only an energy efficiency assessment which would be disclosed to buyers.

A third aspect of Saltzman’s plan provides for technical assistance, training and outreach by the city in the first two years. Saltzman says the goal is to not have to charge the fee, in which case incentives could come in the form of discounted system development charges. “We see [these standards] as achievable.”

“We’ll do anything possible to stop a mandatory program,” says Jim McCauley with the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland. McCauley has been working with the Development Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) in the city’s Bureau of Development Services, overseen by city commissioner Randy Leonard, on a plan he says will be just as effective but won’t result in extra costs to the consumer. “And you’ll see a lot more success [with a voluntary program],” McCauley says.

DRAC includes representatives from all city committees that affect builders and outside groups like Earth Advantage. It aims to streamline permitting and reduce costs for developers who get third-party energy efficiency certification, but it does not set a specific standard in its draft plan.

McCauley alleges the OSD mandatory plan is about image building and was kept under wraps until its Chicago announcement. Saltzman says voluntary standards don’t guarantee the needed results. He doesn’t view the DRAC plan as competition and points out the OSD plan is still being refined; he expects the two will be meshed as the public weighs in. Both proposals are being polished this month before formally going to the city council in early 2008.

AMBER NOBE


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Editor's Letter: Power Play

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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