Green Building Standards in Minneapolis

Linden Hills Green House by SALA Architects

Linden Hills Green House by SALA Architects

Minneapolis City Councilperson Linea Palmisano led an effort to examine the state of green building — to lead to greater incentives in the construction and demolition of residential development for one to four unit buildings. Here is a summary of the report (Part 1 of 3).

The report can be found in entirety here.

  • The research found that the largest factor preventing builders from incorporating green building strategies is real or perceived cost increase.
  • The second largest factor is lack of knowledge of green building.
  • Tax abatement, density bonuses, and expedited permitting appear to be the most prevalent and cost effective incentives nationwide.

Making Comparisons

According to The US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program:

  • There are 150 LEED-certified properties in Minneapolis, approximately 25 percent of Minnesota’s total.
  • Of Minneapolis’ 150 LEED projects, 74 fall into the building design and construction category and 18 fall into the homes category.
  • Of the 30 largest commercial office markets in the United States, Minneapolis-Saint Paul was found by CBRE in a 2014 study to have the highest LEED adoption rate, with 39.4% of all office space in the market being LEED-certified. San Francisco is at 39.2%; Chicago 31.8%.

Since 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program has been providing certifications of energy efficiency to products across a variety of industries. According to the same 2014 CBRE report, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul commercial office market had the highest rate of Energy Star adoption, with 62.8% of all office space being Energy Star certified.

Minnesota also has its own standards — the B3 Program (Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond) — which studies building performance and develops standards and strategies for measuring and increasing performance of buildings receiving state funds. The B3 Guidelines (B3-MNBG) includes standards in energy and waste efficiency. To date, five projects in the City of Minneapolis have met these standards, approximately 12 percent of Minnesota’s total.

The Minnesota Greenstar program also is a certification program unique to Minnesota. It has provided training in green building strategies to professionals in Minnesota. The program’s focus has always been on sustainable renovations to existing homes. While Greenstar does not have the name recognition of LEED, its tailoring to local climate and construction makes it a leading certification program for residential remodels in the Upper Midwest.

Current Green Building Incentives

  • Installation of an intensive, semi-intensive, modular, or integrated green roof system.
  • Significant renovation, rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of an existing building(s), rather than demolition.
  • Permanent and viable growing space and/or facilities such as a greenhouse or a garden conservatory.
  • Use of a photovoltaic or wind electrical system, solar thermal system, and/or geothermal heating and cooling system for at least seven (7) percent of the annual energy costs in new and existing buildings.
  • Public access to shared bicycles available for short-term use.
  • Access to a share passenger automobile available for short-term use.
  • Provide capacity for infiltrating stormwater generated onsite with artful rain garden design.
  • Provide and easily accessible area that serves the entire building and is dedicated to the collection and storage of non-hazardous materials for recycling, including but not limited to paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics and metals.

Residential Building Requirements

All new homes (1-4 units) in Minneapolis must achieve a minimum of 17 of 27 available points in the residential point system. In addition to design points for City goals above, points also are available for two environmental features: meeting Minneapolis’ stormwater quality credit program, and locating a healthy number of trees on the site.

DID YOU KNOW: Minneapolis currently promotes the use of stormwater best management practices (BMPs) such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and retention ponds, by waiving either 50 percent or 100 percent of a property’s monthly stormwater charge, depending on the impact of the BMP. To qualify for such programs, an application must be completed and approved by City staff.

Green Homes North is a CPED program, started in 2012, that is providing funding for the construction of 100 single-family homes on vacant CPED-owned lots in North Minneapolis. All homes built as part of the program must meet either the Minnesota Green Communities Standards or LEED for Home. Through 2014, 47 homes have been completed.

Ideas for Incentivization

The report looked at the programs implemented in other cities, to consider options that might be useful in Minneapolis. One idea for possible implementation:

  • Density bonuses are popular already, but could be enhanced — such as including up to a 20 percent increase in maximum permitted GFA, increases in maximum permitted height, reductions in required yards, and up to a 20 percent increase in maximum permitted dwelling units.

Related Resources

Q&A with green architect Alex Haecker

Greener demolition options

Building salvage in Minneapolis