Sustainable Building Ordinance

Dec. 9 Update: On December 7th, the City Council voted to file the ASBO until the next year.  Upon introduction of the ASBO by Councilman Maddox, which included a recommendation for Amendment 6, the ASBO failed to receive a second.  The ordinance was then recommended to be filed, and the measure passed 14-0.

Filing the ASBO means that it will be eligible to be reintroduced in 2010 if a City Council Member chooses to pursue the issue.  The ASBO would go through a committee structure and would need to be approved by the entire legislative process.

The Council for Quality Growth, along with our industry partners in MARTG, worked dilligently to see that the ASBO, as written, was not adopted by the Atlanta City Council.  The ASBO, as it was proposed, was not effective in encouraging green building.  It actually made voluntary green building more expensive through many of the permitting phases that were being mandated.  The Council for Quality Growth hopes to work with City Council on developing an ordinance that encourages green building without invoking costly mandates.

Dec. 2 Update: On December 1st, the CDHR Committee voted unanimously to move the ASBO forward to the full City Council.  The vote followed a decision to not include Amendment 6, which would have made the ordinance voluntary and incentive-based for existing buildings.  Amendment 6 was lost, 3-2-1.  The ordinance was forwarded without a recommendation, meaning that it will be heard and debated by the full City Council on December 7th at 1:00 PM.  The Council may propose amendments to the ordinance, among other options.

12-1-09 Version of ASBO

Amendments 1-4

Amendment 5

Amendment 6

After more than 18 months of work on ten drafts of the Atlanta Sustainable Building Ordinance, the Community Development/Human Resources committee of City Council held a special called work session on October 22nd to review the progress of the ASBO.  The final draft of the ordinance is a hybrid.  For new buildings, the phase in is performance based.  As long as the industry continues to increase the number and overall square footage of green buildings, the ordinance does not become mandatory.  For existing buildings, one chapter of the ordinance will be phased in each year, beginning in 2011.


CDHR met again on November 10th.  The meeting lasted four hours and there were many in attendance on both sides of the ASBO issue. The Metro Atlanta Real Estate Trade Group, which includes the Council for Quality Growth, submitted a memo to the CDHR committee members before the meeting that outlined MARTG’s position on the ordinance.

  • A full economic impact analysis of this proposal is needed.  What effect will the mandates in this ordinance have on existing businesses in Atlanta, particularly small businesses and commercial properties in economically-distressed areas? What effect will the mandates in this ordinance have on economic development efforts and the City’s tax base, specifically regarding the effect of this ordinance on the cost of tenant improvements on smaller projects?
  • More information is needed regarding how the City will staff and pay for the new administrative obligations of this ordinance.  According to Sustainable Atlanta, initial implementation of this ordinance will be paid for by a federal grant. Funding recurring expenses with non-recurring revenue is ill-advised and could negatively impact Atlanta’s bond rating.  Uncertainty regarding funding, personnel, and the level of support the next administration will offer for this ordinance should be resolved.
  • The ordinance still lacks any zoning, utility, or financial incentives that could encourage the development of sustainable projects and mitigate the increased cost of compliance. Failure to address this shortcoming will likely create adisincentive for redevelopment or expansion of existing businesses and put Atlanta at a competitive disadvantage to our peer cities when attempting to attract new businesses.

At the CDHR meeting, Jahnee Prince spoke on behalf of MARTG and reiterated all of the points from the memo and answered questions from the individual councilmenbers. Representatives from NPU W (Grant Park) and NPU B (Buckhead) both spoke against the ordinance and the impact it would have on small projects.  Howard Shook also spoke, saying that the ordinance was not ready to be passed.  Mary Norwood proposed two amendments to the ordinance.  One was to exempt tenant spaces of 20,000 square feet or less from the certification and commissioning requirements in the ordinance.  The other was to direct the city council to revisit incentives in 2010.  In the end, the ASBO was deferred to the next CDHR meeting and MARTG was asked to outline for CDHR a list of incentives that we would agree to and to attend yet another called work session on November 23rd.

The November 23rd work session was attended by MARTG representatives, Sustainable Atlanta representatives and City Councilmembers Maddox, Shepard, Hall, Mitchell and Shook.  The result of the called work session was a proposal for three new amendments to the ordinance.  The proposal is to exempt from the ASBO new buildings of 1500 square feet or less and to exempt tenant improvements in existing buildings of 5000 square feet or less.  The other amendment is to make section 2.2.2 of the ordinance (the chapter based phase in for existing buildings) contingent upon the approval of financial incentives by the City Council.  The ASBO is scheduled to go back to CDHR on December 1st and to the full City Council for a final vote on December 7th.

If CDHR moves forward with a recommendation, this ordinance will go to City Council for a final vote at the first City Council meeting after its passage. If you would like to let individual City Councilmembers know about your concerns with the ASBO, you can email them directly.

The President of Council, Lisa Borders (

Carla Smith ( District 1,
Kwanza Hall ( District 2,
Ivory Lee Young ( District 3,
Cleta Winslow ( District  4,
Natalyn M. Archibong ( District 5,
Anne Fauver ( District 6,
Howard Shook ( District 7,
Clair Muller ( District 8,
Felicia Moore ( District 9,
C.T. Martin ( District 10,
Jim Maddox ( District 11,
Joyce Sheperd ( District 12,
Ceasar Mitchell ( Post 1 at large,
Mary Norwood ( Post 2 at large, and
H. Lamar Willis ( Post 3 at large.

If you can’t make it to CDHR, check back for a posted uopdate or contact Jahnee Prince at the Council for more information.

Letter to Commissioner Shelby

Technical Appendix to letter

Extended voluntary timeline