The CSAB Journey with Todd Collins

Todd’s Involvement On Golden’s Community Sustainability Advisory Board

One thing you’ll notice when you get to know the AE Building Systems team is that Todd Collins cares A LOT about sustainable design. He lives and breathes it. So, it’s no wonder he has spread that passion for sustainable building and design into his community interactions where he lives. This time on our blog, we are sharing a personal angle from Todd. We hope you enjoy hearing about his passion and the why behind what he does!

My journey is probably like so many others out there: you find something you’re passionate about and it slowly infiltrates your entire life. I’ve always had an interest in architecture and passive solar design, even though I studied computer science in college. After college, I ended up in sales and marketing roles and later went on to meld some of these interests and sales experience to help build what is now AE Building Systems. I love it! I get to geek out on sustainability and passive house design concepts day in and day out – AND get to help others do it too! 

When we had kids, I started thinking more about the built environment and also started thinking about future generations. I started realizing how so much of what we do is setting them up for failure down the road. Instead, by focusing on performance and climate change, we can work to make things better for future generations. 

As a longtime resident of Golden, Colorado, I started getting involved in the local conversations around sustainability. I started as a member of the Planning Commission (PC) and functioned as a sustainability expert as it relates to buildings. Eventually, I was asked to participate on the Community Sustainability Advisory Board (CSAB) and PC  joint committee in developing the new sustainability code. Having now transitioned to CSAB only, one of my primary focuses is to help complete the new sustainability building code. 

CSAB Considerations

As a member of this joint committee for CSAB, I’ve had a unique perspective on the topic and have been able to understand the issues from varying angles. The City of Golden also hired an outside consulting firm that ran three meetings with approximately 20 participants each to get community feedback. We looked at the energy situation from different perspectives to really work toward a solution that focuses on achieving the goals of a 2019 ordinance passed by the City Council that largely aligns the City with the Parris Accord and the State of Colorado goals. .

One of the more significant constraints is the fact that Golden is a small municipality with limited resources and we knew the processes involved to change and manage the new code could be costly. We also knew there were industrial, or process energy, situations that posed difficulties. So, we focused our attention on facilities where energy is being used to operate the building (including lighting, plug loads, heating and cooling, etc.). 

We also looked at zero, zero-ready, Passive-House, NBI, and other performance-based designs to help mold our energy code recommendations. One big focus of these new codes is a reliance on all-electric and is related to GHG emissions. At the same time, we realized that all-electric isn’t a perfect solution, as some energy production is still using fossil fuels. While Xcel is reducing the percentage of energy produced by fossil fuels, code changes like these will actively reduce that percentage as well. 

Prescriptive vs. Performance:

Our joint committee decided on a performance-based direction due to the fact that performance is modeled. Therefore, the responsibility for doing a model would be placed on applicants vs. the municipality. This reduces the city’s burden for resources to move the code along quickly. We do know there may be some situations that require a more prescriptive requirement in addition to the performance approach. For example, reflective roofs and the heat island effect may need to be addressed down the road. 

Where are we now? 

The current path is still all-electric, NZE and on-site renewables and for all construction types – residential, multi-family and commercial.  In February of 2023, City Council requested additional community feedback, which included three more meetings to discuss challenges with developers and the built community. There have been concerns about buildings over three stories, as well as some for industrial/warehouse buildings and affordable housing. We also know there are some hurdles related to solar access.  The City does not protect solar access rights. In summary, the City has a fair bit of work to do to build out a variance/exception process and to build out the criteria for these scenarios. 

There are still a lot of questions to answer, but I’m excited to be part of the process to help our community move toward more sustainability! 


Note: The views and opinions listed above are specific to Todd Collins and do not necessarily represent official views of the City of Golden. 

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