No 'Green' Building Rebates for Beaches Projects; Program That Helps Offset Costs for Energy and Environmental Standards for Jacksonville Only

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Byline: CAREN BURMEISTER

Beaches-area building projects won't be eligible for proposed legislation filed in Jacksonville this week for an environmentally "green" building rebate program.

But that's not stopping the builder of the Diamond Island Hotel on First Street North in Jacksonville Beach or a Houston global energy tycoon who plans to construct a 12,000-square-foot home in Ponte Vedra Beach with sustainable construction methods.

Those two projects will follow Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards, a rigorous green building program that requires the use of smart design, technology and construction.

If the projects were in Jacksonville, they would be eligible for the green building incentives that are part of the bill filed Wednesday and scheduled to be on Tuesday's Jacksonville City Council agenda. The bill provides a rebate of up to $1,000 to offset the costs of LEED certification and puts green building projects into a fast-track permitting process.

The hotel's builder, Brad Hollett, president of Accelerated Construction, said he was disappointed to recently learn that Beaches projects can't tap into those incentives.

"That's the greatest project out there," Hollett said. "But it's not for the Beaches."

Beaches projects won't be eligible because each Beaches city has its own building and permitting office, said Derek Igou, deputy director of Jacksonville's Environmental and Compliance Department, which drew up the bill. In addition, he said, Beaches cities don't contribute to a trust fund supplied by fines paid by pollution violators. The fund provides a $100,000 pot of money for the rebates.

But Hollett isn't convinced.

"The Beaches are part of Jacksonville," he said. "If tax funds are being expended, then the Beaches should be eligible."

Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham, who represents the Beaches, said he was unfamiliar with the incentive bill but would investigate whether Beaches construction projects might be eligible through taxes, pollution fines or some other way.

LEED construction is very complex and expensive, but can pay out in huge energy savings over time, advocates say.

Bob Hart, the former chief executive officer of Globelqu, a Houston-based company that provides power for about 80 million people in emerging markets in Africa, the Americas and Asia, said he plans to spend 10 to 15 percent more to meet LEED standards on his retirement home on San Juan Drive in Ponte Vedra Beach. He estimates that will cost about $200,000 extra.

The green features in his home will include solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity; a geothermal heat pump for the heating, air conditioning, hot water systems and pool; insulated ceilings and skylights; a rainwater collection system; and reclaimed beams and wood and stone flooring.

Hart said he's making the investment "for political and ideological reasons."

"I've done my fair share of polluting," he said about spending a lifetime in the energy industry. "I feel strongly about the whole global issue. …