In an effort to become the country’s environmental leader, the City of Santa Barbara has passed the new Energy Ordinance – a resolution that seeks to make the city 40 percent more energy efficient than any other locale in the United States.

Santa Barbara City Council members voted in approval of the new ordinance, which was inspired 10 months ago by American Institute of Architects member Edward Mazria. He calculated that 49 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings regulated by local governments. Following Mazria’s presentation, Santa Barbara environmentalists, architects and builders collaborated to tighten building energy standards.

The ordinance also stems from Mazria’s Architecture 2030 Challenge, which calls for cities to become carbon neutral by 2030.

City councilmember Das Williams said Santa Barbara is leading the way in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions through building renovations and construction.

“We’re the first in the nation [to adopt the Architecture 2030 Challenge],” he said. “Other local governments, I think, are going to imitate this. We are a leader in protecting the environment and we encourage other cities to do the same.”

Williams also said the ordinance seeks to tighten energy standards by 10 percent every five years and make buildings 20 percent more energy efficient than California state standards, which are already 20 percent more efficient than the national standards. Santa Barbara’s buildings, Williams said, would ultimately become 40 percent more efficient than any other city, in any other state.

Community Environmental Council Energy Program Director Tam Hunt said the first step to meet the 2030 challenge is an immediate reduction of energy use in buildings until fossil fuel use is half the national average.

“I certainly don’t think this is the only thing we should focus on,” Hunt said. “The Architecture 2030 Challenge is one piece of a broader set of solutions. For transportation, we want to make biodiesel more accessible. There is no silver bullet to the problem. We want to put together solutions in a comprehensive package.”

About 15 local groups are actively supporting the energy ordinance and the 2030 Challenge, Hunt said. The primary partners are AIA and the Sustainability Project. Other members include the Contractors Assoc., Bill Green, Thompson Naylor Architecture, Allen and Assoc. and some local realtors.

“We meet once a month and talk about the agenda and everyone does what they can to reach out to different groups and make sure they’re on board,” he said. “They’ll meet with staff and officials and give presentations. It’s fairly fluid as to who does what. We want to be a full-time nonprofit with the resources to actually guide the process.”

Williams said the ordinance will not cost tax payers, but rather the builders themselves, who will need to purchase energy efficient materials. The plan centers on remodeling old buildings and constructing new ones using environmentally friendly insulation.

He also said the CEC and AIA have made attempts to avoid any possible feuds between the city and builders by educating the community about the benefits of energy efficient material.

“This is just another part of the green agenda for the city of Santa Barbara,” Williams said.