Green building policy up for Sept. 15 Buncombe vote

Buncombe County seal

Green building policy up for Sept. 15 Buncombe vote

After recently agreeing to fund over $10 million in solar panels atop local government and school buildings, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will turn its attention to the buildings themselves. During their regular meeting of Tuesday, Sept. 15, commissioners will vote on a resolution to adopt LEED Gold standards for new public facilities over 10,000 square feet and major renovations.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, an effort of the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, awards points to buildings that use energy efficiently, appropriately manage rainwater, ensure indoor air quality and meet other criteria. Gold represents the second-highest LEED level and requires buildings to earn at least 60 points on a 110-point scale.

Jeremiah LeRoy, Buncombe sustainability officer, told commissioners during a Sept. 1 briefing that “high-performance buildings” meeting LEED standards could save the county money over time. While construction to those standards might cost a premium of 7%-12% over standard methods, he said, reduced waste and energy expenses often paid back that cost over a building’s 30- to 40-year lifespan.

The county’s policy would also require all new buildings to be constructed with solar-ready design and achieve net-zero energy use, meaning the building would generate enough renewable power to meet its own needs, “where feasible.” Buncombe has committed to powering all government operations with renewable energy by 2030 as part of its efforts to combatting climate change.

In other news

Buncombe residents will soon get the opportunity to weigh in on how up to $900,000 in federal coronavirus relief will be spent throughout the county. The board is expected to approve a “citizen participation plan” for planning, implementation and assessment of the Community Development Block Grant program.

According to a presentation on the program available before the meeting, the funds must be spent outside of Asheville city limits. Potential uses include rent and utility assistance, broadband internet expansion and small business support.

Commissioners will also vote on whether to use roughly $19,000 from another pot of federal COVID-19 aid to subsidize the county’s public transit system. The money would replace a defunded state program that had supported fare-free transportation in rural areas.

And in an item requested by Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, as well as Amanda Edwards and Chair Brownie Newman, the board will discuss the county’s parental leave policy. No further explanation or documents were posted on the commission’s website as of press time.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains five items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:

The commission will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m., at which the board will discuss health benefits for employees and the county’s COVID-19 response. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Monday, Sept. 14, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the commission.

Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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