Working Our Way Towards an Environmentally-Sustainable Future

Over the years, Chester County has made many strides to promoting environmentally-sustainable practices and standards throughout our communities. Now that we’ve made our way into 2021, communities should consider reassessing their current efforts to ensure the best “green” practices for residents and businesses both now, and into the future. The following three eTools provide ideas for saving energy and promoting green development practices.

Through companies such as PECO, municipalities can undergo a “municipal energy audit,” which analyzes their overall energy usage and identifies areas where energy can be better utilized. EnergyStar also offers an online audit which can be completed without a consultant through their “home energy yardstick.” Ultimately, this process can help a municipality to reduce their energy bills and taxpayer’s bills alike by lowering a community’s overall energy consumption.

Some benefits to recent energy audits include reduced energy use and carbon emissions in the West Chester Area School District’s 16 schools, a grant from the US Department of Energy to provide high-efficiency lighting and geothermal heating and cooling systems (among other things) in the county’s main facilities building, and a “Green Building Questionnaire” to be included with all commercial and multi-family housing permit applications in the West Chester Borough.

Another way municipalities can implement environmentally-sustainable practices is through “green development codes” or “green development ordinances” which provide regulations for environmentally-responsible and resource-efficient construction and land development within a community. By adopting these codes, municipalities can further ensure that proper practices and standards are followed regarding building techniques, land developments, and stormwater management. An example of this can be seen in Newlin Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, as well as in West Chester Borough, Willistown Township, and the Village of Berwyn Districts (Easttown).

A creative and effective way to implement sustainable practices is through the use of “green roofs.” Green roofs are buildings in which one or more of the roof surfaces has been covered by vegetation. The greenery grows in a special lightweight material that supports stormwater management, and also provides more room for green space and removes pollutants from the atmosphere. The Francis Harvey Green Library located at West Chester University is a current example of a green roof, which is also frequently used for research by faculty and students.

Through these environmentally-friendly methods, municipalities can promote a sustainable future for Chester County and our planet as a whole.

Our planning eTools cover a wide array of planning topics, from natural resources to economic development. The tools are easy to read, providing a quick overview of each topic, a brief explanation of how it works, and considerations for addressing the topic or regulating use. An alphabetical listing of eTools is available in our Municipal Corner.