Shooting Yourself in the Permit

November 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

Dear Mayor Daley,

The City of Chicago Green Building Permit program is broken. A national environmental non-profit organization is setting up shop in Chicago. The permitting process for that project would have taken 3 weeks under the functioning program. Instead it took 3 months, and not because of incompetence or sloth, but because the staff has been cut by 75%.

Your budget deficit is massive, but by cutting building department staff, you’re shooting yourself in the permit. Permits lead to buildings which generate tax revenue, jobs, and material sales, and when completed support business development. Cutting staff may reduce direct cost, but it also hits the City’s top line revenue by slowing building-related economic activity City-wide.

Green buildings are even more important than conventional construction. You know as well as anyone that green buildings reduce energy use, improve worker productivity, enhance retail sales, and help kids learn. All of these enhance income generation and tax revenue.

But there’s more. According to two recent wide-scale surveys, one from CoStar, the #1 commercial real estate information company, and another from McGraw Hill Construction, the well-known construction info source, green buildings also:

  • Generate higher building returns (ROI)
  • Command higher rents
  • Are seen as the future by real estate developers (not just by government and owner-occupiers)
  • Maintain higher occupancy rates
  • Are worth more when sold

In other words,

Green construction = greater economic stimulus.

Green benefits are multiplied throughout the local economy. Indiscriminate across-the-board cuts would seem to be self defeating when they hit revenue-generating activities like building permits. What other budget cuts are hurting City revenues?

And one last question. How will the Olympic Committee view a city that can’t get green projects built quickly?

Chicago is a great city. And you’ve done a great job making it greener. Please don’t let indiscriminate budget decisions lead to backsliding and a return to the inefficient ways of the past.



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