RCAP Database | Key West Case Study of EF-1

Initiative: Building Permit Allocation System

Contact Name: 
Alison Higgins
Contact Email: 

Introducing competition for green points has really raised the bar on the inventiveness of our architects and developers.

- Alison Higgins, Sustainability Coordinator

Quick Facts & Statistics

  • Studies of green certified buildings show that they average minimal increases in upfront costs (~ 2%) and result in life cycle savings of 20% of total construction costs -- more than ten times the initial investment. 
  • A study in Atlanta in 2009 found that certified homes sold 3.6% closer to list price and 31 days faster. 
  • A 2013 report by the Institute for Market Transformation showed that Energy Star homes were 32 percent less likely to go into default (99.9% confidence level).  


Residential building permits in the Florida Keys are regulated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).  The City of Key West was allotted 910 new residential building permits by the DEO, to be doled out evenly over the next ten years.  In order to prioritize the allocation of these scarce residential permits with the City's sustainability goals, the Building Permit Allocation System (BPAS) was created.

Prerequisites for the competitive process include building 1.5’ above BFE, installation of a cistern, and obtaining basic green building certification.  Additional voluntary options build points towards the application, with the highest scoring applications being granted permits on an annual ranking process.

Implementation Process

Monroe County has a similar Rate Of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) competitive ranking system, so the first thing City staff did is interview County staff for their opinions and suggestions.  The City of Key West was the first to include prerequisites, all of which were new options compared to other Keys systems.  The prerequisites were chosen based on what would be the best investment for not only the homeowner, but also the community.  The limited number (10) of voluntary points were kept simple, but also chosen based on local priorities.

Staff met with many architects and contractors, as well as held a workshop to explain the proposed process.  The ordinance passed the Planning Board and City Commission, and then was sent on to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.  Because we had involved DEO staff from the start, they also warmly received our BPAS ordinance. 

There was a bit of a learning curve for the first year and planning staff met extensively with applicants to make sure they turned in complete, competitive applications.  Now, with only two years of permits awarded, we are proud to say that the BPAS ordinance has not only led to a green sophistication of our local architects and contractors, but also a competitiveness to be the first to introduce new technologies to our City.

Implementation Timeline

The City was not granted new residential permits until we updated our Comprehensive Plan in spring of 2013.  At that time, staff began researching other Rate Of Growth Ordinance (ROGO) systems and prioritizing what was important for our island.  Once the ordinance was drafted, it was circulated widely to architects and contractors, as well as subject to discussion at a meeting with the Key West Board of Realtors.  After its acceptance at the DEO in early 2014, we also worked with the local chapter of the US Green Building Council to host workshops dedicated to topics related to the ordinance in order to boost local understanding of the technological details.  

Implementation Funding

The initiative was entirely staff driven, costing no additional cash funds.  

Community Benefits

To date, the BPAS system is responsible for the first Platinum residences in the Florida Keys, 17 electric car-charging stations, 130,000 gallons of new cisterns, and the first residential vegetated roof.  It has led to the increase of green building certified architects and builders and, therefore, a more thorough knowledge of what could be done to any building to make it more energy and water efficient.  It has led to the creation of at least one new green job: the Keys’ first certified HERS rater, ensuring no one has to pay for a rater to come from 200 miles away.