Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sierra Club Northern New Mexico Group Releases Candidate Endorsements and Bond Support

Below are the endorsed candidates and bond questions recommended by the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. Detailed candidate endorsements are attached for all four districts. The Northern New Mexico Group researched these bond questions and candidates thoroughly, and we urge Santa Feans to support them in the upcoming municipal election:

Candidates for Santa Fe City Council:

District 1: Patti Bushee

Councilor Bushee has been a long history of advocating for environmental issues, development of clean energy and responsible water use in her many years on the City Council.

District 2: Peter Ives

Ives, a new candidate running for this open seat, has worked as in-house counsel for the Trust for Public Land for 14 years and demonstrates a commitment to increasing awareness of sustainability in Santa Fe and protecting its water sources

District 3: Christopher Rivera

Rivera, also a new candidate running for an open seat, displays a strong knowledge of water issues and a concern for long-term planning to keep resources plentiful for future generations of Santa Feans.

District 4: Carol Robertson Lopez

Robertson Lopez is a former city councilor with superb knowledge of water issues and a strong record of advocating for smart water-conservation strategies

See more information on these candidates here.

Vote "yes" on the following bond questions:

Question 2: $14 million for Trails and Parks.

Question 3: $3.8 million for sustainable environmental projects.

January 31, 2012 at 06:13 PM in Candidates & Races, Land Issues, Santa Fe County Commissioner | |

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Guest blog: Santa Fe County Commissioner; Kathy Holian Supports Local Green Building Code

Kathy_SF CountyIn 2011, the State of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque rolled back their energy efficiency codes over strenuous objections from clean energy advocates, green builders, neighborhood associations and others.  Santa Fe County wants to follow a different path.  This week, County Commissioner Kathy Holian sent a letter to Santa Fe County residents explaining her reasons for supporting a strong Green Building Code – portions of which are excerpted below.

I want to share with you my views on a vital part of our new Sustainable Land Development Code, which is the result of over two years of work and community input on The Plan, upon which The Code must be based. The Green Building Code is essential to our planning for a sustainable future for the next several decades in Santa Fe County.

Let's start with a reality check: The cost of energy for heating and cooling homes, as well as for keeping on the lights, has been increasing inexorably over the past decade. Utility bills are getting to be a larger and larger fraction of the cost of living in a home. I don't see this trend turning around anytime soon.

Making sure that new homes are energy efficient will pay off greatly in the future. However, a builder may not always be motivated to make a home secure and efficient; after all, the builder and his or her family aren't necessarily going to be living in the home. It is also important to note that many different families live in a residence over its lifetime, so most occupiers have no say in how it is built. And if they buy a home that requires major retrofitting, it will give them pause before they tackle an onerous "This Old House."

The cost of features added to a home when it is built, like extra insulation and double-pane windows, can be amortized over 30 years in the mortgage payment. Studies have shown that the amount saved in utility bills can often be significantly more than the added amount in the mortgage payment.

Erik Aaboe, Santa Fe County Energy Specialist, did an analysis on the extra cost of a home that included energy efficiency measures to reach a HERS (Home Energy Rating Scale) rating of 70. To explain, an average home built with standard methods today is considered HERS 100. As the energy efficiency of a home increases, the HERS rating decreases; thus, a HERS 70 home is 30% more energy efficient than a HERS 100 home. (The state of New Mexico already requires that new home construction be HERS 89.)

Erik calculated that adding the following energy efficiency measures up front -- when the home is being built -- would cost $3870 for a home that uses natural gas ($4370 for propane):

- energy-efficient double-pane windows
- compact fluorescent lighting
- efficient water heater tank
- efficient furnace

The reason for the difference in upfront cost is that the (natural) gas company gives rebates -- unavailable to propane customers -- for installing efficient appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces.

The added cost to the mortgage for the natural gas home is $20.75 per month ($23.50 for the propane home). But here, at last, is where the good news comes in: The homeowner using natural gas saves $26.50 per month, and the homeowner using propane saves $129 per month. (For now, and likely for some time, propane is much more costly than natural gas, which isn't available everywhere in the County.) So the two homeowners are ahead by $5.75 and $106, respectively, per month. I will also note that a builder can improve the HERS rating of a home by merely siting it intelligently with respect to the sun, in order to take advantage of passive solar gain in winter. This usually costs nothing extra, although the topography of some lots may make that option less feasible.

The important point is that reaching a HERS 70 for a new home is not difficult, and it pays off immediately! However, there are builders who do not want to be held to this higher standard. These are the ones who are using the excuse that it will hurt people who are just trying to scrape together the money to buy their first home. But these are precisely the people who need to think of all the costs of living in a home -- not just the cost of the mortgage.

Now, in the age of dwindling energy resources -- and therefore, increasing costs -- what about the new homeowner who can just barely afford the already-built home that they have bought? How are they going to come up with thousands of dollars to heat and cool their homes over the next several years? (Not to mention the even greater, and increasing costs of retrofitting energy efficiencies.)

I believe that, bit by bit, more energy-efficient homes will be required across the country. This will be equivalent to the spread of safety regulations for home building that took hold in the last century, when, for example, people decided that it wasn't a good idea for homes to burn down due to faulty electric wiring. So, the question is: Does Santa Fe County want to be a leader in this area? Or are we going to be a follower in the national trend?

I hope you will agree that we need to be thinking ahead and not living in denial. A forward-thinking Green Building Code is really just good, old-fashioned common sense.

January 4, 2012 at 02:46 PM in Building Code Energy Efficiency, Energy, Environment, Guest Blogger, Santa Fe County Commissioner | Permalink | Comments (3)