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Green Building Laws: Hawaii

By Dayanti Karunaratne
March 5, 2009
File under: Legislation


A Natural Progression or Micro-managing?

To what extent does legislation move the green building movement forward, and when does it become micro-managing?

In June 2008, Hawaii became the first state to require solar water heaters. Designed to decrease dependency on fossil fuels, starting in 2010 most new one-family homes will be equipped with these green building devices. The Aloha State has announced a goal of having 70 per cent of their energy needs come from renewable resources by 2030.

More recently, however, another solar energy bill championed by groups like the Sierra Club has had a harder time.

It is jokingly referred to as the “right to dry” act, because it would allow homeowners to set up clotheslines.

But, as Sierra Club director Robert Harris told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, line drying is the most low-tech way to use solar energy.

“This bill, as amended, is a fair and balanced means to allow local residents to do the right thing for Hawaii’s environment and economy,” Harris said.

Jeff Mikulina of the Blue Planet Foundation told the Star-Bulletin that clotheslines could save a family on Oahu about $250 a year, and on Kauai, $450 a year.

Opposing the bill are landowners, developers and realtors who say it infringes on their right to implement restrictions on clothesline placement. They say the bill would allow the state to micro-manage community associations.

If it is true that clotheslines are allowed, and the restrictions on them are indeed “reasonable,” why are sustainability activists working so hard to see it pass?

If such a law would really conclude in a slew of disheveled duds strewn over developments, does it not indicate that everyone in that particular condo is in agreement on the use – and, by extension, the necessary aesthetic – of clotheslines?

Yes, there are tourism factors, but as sustainability and renewable energy becomes more integrated into our lives, tourists will accept, and even demand, that their destinations have blue boxes, low-flow toilets, and even clotheslines.

When Hawaii passed their solar water heater mandate last year, lawmakers heard from supporters and opponents. Surprisingly, some in the solar energy industry actually opposed the bill, pushing instead for an incentive program.

The case of Hawaii’s legislation in solar energy speaks to a larger issue of how lawmakers can mandate green building laws. In my next green building post, I will look at more efforts on the state and municipal level to legislate green building. I welcome your thoughts on incentives, market demand, and legislation in this growing sector.

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