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Posted: 2:58 PM- Tougher environmental standards could mean an easier approval process for developers in Utah's capital.
That's the gist of Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's latest earth-minded initiative, which would cut the bureaucratic tape for builders willing to meet the specs of the U.S. Green Building Council.
"Time is money in the building world," he told an American Institute of Architects' gathering at Tracy Aviary on Wednesday. "We have seen some really positive effects in communities that use that approach."
The Democratic mayor - formerly an urban planner - says the perk will promote building plans that incorporate natural light, recycling, energy-efficient heating systems and other "green" amenities that will reduce the capital's footprint on the environment.
Becker is expected to roll out the proposal this summer, possibly by late June.
Prescott Muir, who heads the Committee on Design and the Environment for the Utah chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), believes the private sector is ready for a greener building policy.
A fast-track approval process for earth-friendly projects, he said, may prod development in that direction.
"Any inducement like that is a good incentive," he said.
The mayor's announcement came during an AIA-sponsored forum on green development in which mayors from Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and Ogden pumped their environmental progress.
They spoke of tree plantings, solar power and electric cars. They touted recycling, mass transit and energy conservation.
But with dozens of architects in the audience, the discussion focused much on LEED - the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards promulgated by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said government must make those standards the "norm" - most notably by erecting its own environmentally sound buildings.
The county, Corroon noted, oversees the largest LEED-certified building in the state, the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace and Convention Center and requires any new construction to meet green-building rules.
"If we can change the mindset so that all new projects are built with the environment in mind," he said, "then I think it will become commonplace among builders as well."