Challenges of Green Residential Development: Resistance to Change (Local Government)

City governments are a partner with developers in building communities within city borders. Just as with any other partner in business, the parties must have a common goal, and be able to communicate effectively to achieve success. In many places, communication on green development remains poor and education on both sides of the fence is not uniform.
For example, a developer might propose to use a new wall system to construct his buildings that the city engineers are not familiar with. Therefore the city must be educated accordingly and the developer will be informed by the city that this new material may require new ordinances, building codes, or inspection guidelines – a quagmire that might make the developer feel it’s too much trouble to bother with.

The question is why are many cities not planning smarter? First of all, most cities are under-staffed and under-funded. To complicate matters, many poorly funded cities have experienced rapid growth in the past few years. U.S. government funding is continually diminishing and tax dollars are stretched tightly in a slipping economy. The result is some local governments stick to what they know – the simple unsustainable methods for building and development. This creates a resistance to change which trickles from government laws and ordinances on down the ladder.
Efficiency in the approval process is one of the main bottlenecks in getting green development built. Loosening the restraints of time to complete the planning and approval process for those developers who can demonstrate the feasibility for the success of a green project might help. At the moment, in order for a city to adopt and embrace significant sustainable building practices it takes exorbitantly more time and a series of additional hoops to jump through. Couple this time with an uneducated staff and you have a virtual nightmare on your hands if you are a developer trying to do something different.
I have been working with Coyote Creek Estates, near Salt Lake City, who are currently undergoing a case study that is providing the information for this article. Coyote Creek is a 28-home Sustainable Planned Urban Development (SPUD) that has been wading through the challenges of bringing something entirely green and environmentally-oriented to an area that has, until now, not been known for green innovaion.
Dave Christenson, the developer of the project, has made himself available to triplepundit readers for any questions on green development and the challenges he’s had in Utah. You may find contact information for at his website provided by the link above. Or just leave a comment here.
In May, the details of the case study will be available online.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

3 responses

  1. Lex – interesting post. It’s a bit one-sided though, Government is rarely known for efficiency, but developers are rarely known to give a damn, so you’ve got to have two sides to the equation there.
    What’s Coyote Creek doing that’s different? I’d love to know about the specific issues they’ve been working with and which ones caused problems in the approval process – that’d be useful info to have!

  2. Dave, In response to your comment, although it reads a bit one-sided that was the focus here. To discuss and present the issues from the city government, not from developers.
    I will not generalize developers as they have no uniform standard to work by, most are simply in it for the dough and simply want to get things built cheaply, fast and leave without looking back.
    I will be discussing many more issues from the developer, to the city, to the consumer and the builders in consecutive articles. Expect to read many more relating to this in the coming month, the series will be broad in scope and well intrenched in the details.
    I would answer your proposed question about what coyote creek is doing different and the specific issues regarding the approval process but it would take too much time at the moment, instead, I will write an article to post next week that will answer these questions for you in detail.
    Also, look forward to a comment by Dave C. and be free to contact Dave Christenson at for further details or questions.

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