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City of Morgan Hill – Green Building Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Green Building

Morgan Hill’s green building programs uses a competitive process that encourages developers to achieve incrementally higher levels of energy efficiency and waste reduction in new homes, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Community:Morgan Hill (Santa Clara County)

Population: 39,000


Morgan Hill incorporates green building measures as part of its annual competitive housing allotment process.

Program Highlights

  • Green building ordinance specifies green point requirements for new homes.
  • Applications for new homes under the city’s annual housing allocation system requires a minimum of 70 points on GreenPoint Rated checklist.
  • Higher number of green points makes the individual application stronger and thus more competitive.
  • Verification from certified third party green point rater required for final post-construction approval.

Lessons Learned

  • Be prepared to answer developers’ questions about the cost of incorporating green measures.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Morgan Hill previously adopted a growth control measure which allowed approval of 150 new homes per year. Developers are required to submit preliminary applications rated on various project characteristics, including quality of construction. Although green building is included in the construction quality criteria, most developers previously did not include green building components in their projects.

An update of the city’s growth control measure revised the criteria for preliminary applications. New homes to be built under the annual housing allocation now must earn at least 70 points on Build It Green’s GreenPoint Rated checklist. In addition, developers may now propose incorporating incrementally higher green points in order to receive correspondingly more points toward project final approval.

Steep competition for housing allocation approval has resulted in proposals for extremely green projects. For example, projects now typically incorporate green features that earn 131 points on the GreenPoint Rated checklist. To date, the city has approved over 100 new residences that incorporate 131 points. Project plans must be certified by a GreenPoint rater prior to submission for review and finished homes must be certified again by a GreenPoint rater to receive final inspection approval. Although some developers questioned the incremental cost to “go green”, in the end they generally agreed with one experienced developer and found the amount to be manageable.

Communitywide Green House Gas Reduction

Morgan Hill completed a communitywide greenhouse gas inventory and calculated a per capita greenhouse gas emissions based on average transportation, waste and energy usage. The city’s website features information on the community wide carbon footprint and includes a customized carbon calculator so Morgan Hill residents can determine their own annual carbon emissions. In addition, the city regularly circulates information to the community on green building opportunities and local residents regularly visit a kiosk in city hall with green building information.

Morgan Hill’s goal to reduce locally generated greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 is based in part on its green building efforts. The city plans to consider applying mandatory green building requirements for individual new and remodeled homes, as well as new and remodeled commercial projects. To this end, it now requires completion of the GreenPoint Rated and/or LEED checklists for all projects seeking a building permit, although implementation is currently voluntary.

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.

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