A Green Buildings Ordinance was approved by Denver City Council on October 29, 2018, and took effect Friday, November 2, 2018.
On November 15, Community Planning and Development (CPD) held an open house discussing the flexible options available for buildings under the new ordinance.
Draft Rules and Regulations
CPD and the Denver Department of Public Health & the Environment (DDPHE) are jointly working to draft administrative rules and regulations for implementing the green buildings requirements.
These regulations will be submitted to the DDPHE board for approval. Final rules are expected to be adopted by the board in April 2019.
The green buildings ordinance applies to the following:
The ordinance does NOT apply to parking structures, temporary buildings, air-supported structures, greenhouses, single-family homes, duplexes, or dwelling units constructed in a group of three or more attached units, where each unit extends from foundation to roof and is not more than 3 stories above grade plane.
Partial exemptions for certain residential buildings:
Residential buildings 25,000 square feet or larger that meet the following criteria must meet the ordinance's "cool roof" requirement but are exempt from having to choose a compliance option:
“Cool roof” roof covering materials must meet the solar reflectance values in the table below. For existing buildings that are only replacing sections of the roof and not the entire roof, a “roof section” is roof bounded on all sides by a wall, parapet, edge, expansion joint, or roof divider.
Roof areas exempt from providing a cool roof:
For all projects incorporating a cool roof, include the following in your submittal:
All drawings and documents prepared by an architect or engineer must bear their professional seal and a valid electronic signature according to these guidelines (PDF).
Cool roofs fact sheet (PDF)
Property owners may apply for an administrative modification to propose specific roof materials not itemized or included in the solar reflectance table above.
A character-defining roof must be at least partially visible from a public vantage point, like a publicly accessible street, park, or campus. The roof’s relationship to the overall shape of the building and its distinctive materials, craftsmanship, or decorative details must be important to the overall visual character of the building. If the materials, color, or shape of the roof were to change, it would impact the visual character of the building. For buildings that have character-defining roofs, the cool roof requirement may be reduced to allow the use of materials and colors that keep with the visual character of the building.
To request a character-defining roof determination, include the following in your submittal:
Staff will review this information to determine whether the roof is a character-defining roof or if it will need to comply with the cool roof provisions of the ordinance.
This exemption is only available for roof recover projects (not roof replacements) where recovering the roof with cool roof materials would result in condensation.
Submit an analysis of the existing roof system completed by a professional roof consultant, architect, or engineer that includes their recommendation that the existing roof or roof section would need to be replaced to control condensation. The analysis must calculate and identify the dew-point and include a section-detail of the roofing system documenting the vapor retarder, air barrier, and other roof components that could be used to minimize condensation within the roof system.
All drawings and documents prepared by a licensed design professional must bear their professional seal and a valid electronic signature according to these guidelines (PDF).
Staff will review this information before granting an exemption from the cool roof requirement.
Projects that submitted a formal site development plan (SDP) or complete building permit application and paid review fees under the previous green roofs ordinance have the option of continuing to meet the previous ordinance or submitting revised drawings to meet the new ordinance. There is no required completion date for projects continuing under the old ordinance.
Archived resources for projects continuing under the old ordinance:
“Green space” is any area open to the sky and containing trees, groundcover, shrubs, urban agriculture, natural grass, turf, or a vegetated roof. Green space can be provided on a roof (a vegetated roof or “green roof”) or at grade.
For this compliance option, the ordinance requires an amount of green space related to either the gross floor area, total roof area, or available roof area. To calculate available roof area, start with the total roof area and deduct the following:
Existing green space cannot be used to meet the green buildings ordinance, unless it is improved with trees or an above-grade, vegetated, water quality facility.
New buildings that have a vegetated storm water treatment area or a zoning requirement for open space can count these spaces, provided the area meets Section 4.02(c)(vi) of the Rules and Regulations. (PDF)
Zoning permits for green space at grade
Denver’s site development plan (SDP) review team will review any proposed green space on the ground to ensure it meets zoning standards as well as the green buildings ordinance.
First, read Section 4.02(c) in the Rules and Regulations (PDF). This section details minimum planting area sizes, what qualifies as climate-appropriate vegetation, guidelines on irrigation/potable water use, and when soil testing is required.
Then, include the following information in your submittal:
Green space is shown on this site development plan for compliance with Article XIII of Chapter 10, must be maintained, and cannot be used for purposes other than that shown on this site development plan. Should a future amendment change the amount or location of this green space, then additional green space must be provided to document compliance or payment of cash-in-lieu fees will be required.
Green roofs are subject to the design and construction requirements detailed in Article IV, Section 4.02(b) in the Rules and Regulations (PDF). Read this section carefully before submitting architectural, structural, plumbing, electrical, or mechanical plans for a green roof.
Construction plans for a green roof must be accompanied by maintenance and irrigation plans that include the items listed in Section 4.02(b)(ii)(4-5) in the Rules and Regulations (PDF). Vegetation and growing media specified on the construction documents must coordinate with the maintenance plan.
Green roof construction permits
Projects incorporating a green roof will receive a building permit for the green roof and a standard roof permit for the underlying roof/waterproof membrane of the building.
The green roof permit requires a Denver-licensed green roof installer. Licensed roofing contractors will need to obtain licenses in lawn irrigation and green roof installation to build green roofs. The lawn irrigation and green roof licenses help ensure a high standard of green roof construction by individuals who are skilled in selecting vegetation appropriate for Denver’s climate and equipping it for successful growth and maintenance going forward, long after a green roof installation is complete.
The lawn irrigation and green roof installation licenses are designed for people with irrigation and landscaping experience and do not explicitly cover roofing, so a licensed roofer or building contractor will need to be part of every green roof project.
The green buildings ordinance allows buildings to provide onsite renewable energy or to purchase it through five-year contracts from Xcel or a community solar project.
If your project is purchasing renewable energy, include an energy model in your permit submittal that indicates the anticipated consumption.
When purchased renewable energy is less than 100% of the building’s consumption, the purchased renewable energy must provide the same amount of electricity as the required amount of onsite solar panels would have achieved and the submittal must demonstrate that the building will achieve the requisite energy cost savings.
Before the building can receive a certificate of occupancy (CO), the building owner must present the five-year contract for the renewable energy purchase. A new contract must be submitted every five years or upon expiration of the previous contract for the life of the building. Email contracts to email@example.com.
Include the following in your submittal:
Existing solar panels can count toward the solar coverage requirements of the ordinance, provided the panels have a minimum efficiency rating of 16%.
Solar panels that are not flush-mounted to a roof (within one foot of the roof surface and parallel to the roof) will require a zoning review. Projects in a historic or landmark district will need approval from Landmark Preservation before applying for electrical, zoning, or building permits.
For buildings proposed to be net zero energy, include an energy model and energy use intensity (EUI) showing the estimated annual energy use wholly offset by the onsite renewable energy source.
After operating at 60% or more of normal occupancy for 12 months, email the following to the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) at firstname.lastname@example.org:
If the variance is greater than 5%, the system will need to be reevaluated and corrective measures proposed.
Section 4.06 of the Rules for combination green space/renewable energy approaches
To demonstrate an energy cost savings beyond the current building code, include the following in your submittal:
Before the project can receive a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO), a preliminary commissioning report must be submitted indicating that the items have been installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations and are performing as designed and intended.
Section 4.06 of the Rules for combination green space/energy efficiency approaches
Include the following with your permit application submittal:
Other equivalent certification programs that encompass the entire building may also be accepted.
$50 per square foot of green space required but not provided
For each project that elects to pay into the Green Building Fund instead of meeting another compliance option, CPD will calculate the amount owed based on the amount of green space that would have been required. The fee amount is $50 per square foot of green space required.
When a project is able to provide at least 75% of its green space requirement, but not the full amount, the owner can elect to pay $50 per square foot for the green space not provided, up to a maximum of 25% of the required green space coverage.
This fee must be paid before permits will be issued.
More about the fund
The Green Building Fund is managed by the Department of Public Health & Environment. The money must be invested into the following purposes, with priority given to low-income areas that have less green space and trees, high-impact projects, and green spaces located near the buildings that paid into the fund:
Rate Study (PDF)