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Green Building Policy

In partnership with local government, Sustainable Connections' Green Building & Policy programs have helped to advance green building support for incentives across Whatcom County.  One important focus is to streamline green building policy and reduce barriers associated with permitting sustainable building concepts, design strategies and projects that promote efficient construction techniques.

City Center Master Planning

In 2011-2012 Sustainable Connections worked with the City of Bellingham, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, and other key partners to formalize a Subarea Plan for Bellingham's downtown core district. The Downtown Bellingham Plan was approved by City Council in August 2014 along with related regulations to prompt private and public investment into the thriving Bellingham downtown.

Downtown Bellingham Plan

Downtown Planning Tools

Downtown Bellingham Partnership

Green Bin-Bump-Up

The "Bin-Bump-Up" program was initiated in response to a survey conducted, with support from Sustainable Connections, in 2009 with customers who had done business with the city. The survey responses indicated which incentives should be pursued to encourage green building projects. "Quicker permit review timelines" was chosen as the top contender for incentives and thus the "Bin-Bump-Up" program was developed to expedite permit review for green building projects. The City of Bellingham's Permit Center ran the program from 2010-2011 which involved the following initiatives:

  • Projects that qualify for BuiltGreen 4&5 Star or LEED Gold equivalent were bumped to a seven-day review
  • Technical Assistance provided from City Green Review Team
  • Integrated Review from City staff 

Bin-Bump-Up Program

City of Bellingham Green Development Resources

The Ten in '10 Initiative

Through industry wide success in implementing the FIVE/12 Agenda with the City of Bellingham, the Planning and Community Development (PCD) Green Team, Public Works, Building Services and Planning Department staff in conjunction with Sustainable Connections have identified a number of tasks to be incorporated into the Green Team Strategic Plan for 2010.  This collaborative effort is called the Ten in '10 Initiative.

1. Green Building bin bump-up pilot
2. Construction Waste Recycling pilot
3. Green code adoption
4. Transportation Mode Shift Incentive 
5. Subject-to-field-inspection permit
6. Sustainable water management program
7. Green Roof Initiative
8. Compilation of public/private utility incentives
9. Staff training for review and inspections of green building methods
10. Advanced Materials and Methods (AMM)

Whatcom County "Quick Permit"

In an effort to speed up issuance of building permits, Whatcom County has developed an expedited permit process.  Over the counter permits announced for: 

  • Waterless urinals
  • Roof mounted PV solar panels
  • Solar water heating systems
  • Energy Challenge projects
  • Geothermal mechanical  installations

Whatcom County is taking steps this year to elevate green building and low impact development strategies to the forefront of the Building Department.

Whatcom County Quick Permits Information


The FIVE/12 Agenda

Five over 12 was an initiative created to significantly increase the application of green building practices by responding to the perceived barriers and collaboratively solving problems. In early 2009, Sustainable Connections facilitated the development of a comprehensive list of barriers and possible incentives with extensive input from the City, County and private industry. The City, eager to implement solutions, committed to working to achieving five success stories over the 12 months of 2009, hence Five/12.

FIVE/12 Agenda

Green Building Incentives & Barriers Summary

512 Exec Summary

This report was created in conjunction with the City of Bellingham and Sustainable Connections’ FIVE/12 Green Building Incentive Program, which intends to reduce green building barriers by creating at least five tangible green building incentive success stories by January 2010. View the full FIVE/12 Executive Summary here.


 Advanced Methods and Materials (AMM)

AMM 100

AMMs reflect clear guidance on permitting requirements for common green building techniques. They are developed jointly by the City of Bellingham Building Department, Public Works and Sustainable Connections and encourage innovative policy to help streamline green building.  Significant progress has been made to promote advanced uses for proven green building practices.  View the full list of permitted methods and materials on the City of Bellingham's Green Building Page.

Government Resolutions

Led by a forward thinking government, both the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County have made commitments to LEED.  The City of Bellingham requires LEED Silver rating for the construction of all new and renovated publically funded buildings while Whatcom County launched NW Washington's first "fast-track" permit review process.

Whatcom County Planning and Development Services - Green Building

City of Bellingham 2005 LEED Resolution

Whatcom County's 2006 fast-track permitting


The Policy Team

The Sustainable Connections green building & policy experts are currently pursuing additional green building resource and incentive solutions.

Feel free to e-mail  Rose, Green Building expert, or Alex, Policy expert, with any questions, comments or creative inspiration.

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