There is a growing recognition of the need for and benefit of more sustainable building design. Local developers and builders are voluntarily creating “green” projects—acknowledging not only the growing market demand for green buildings, but also the responsibility we all share to be stewards of our environment.

The built environment can be a great asset for the viability of the community. Site design, building materials, and special attention to utilizing or conserving our resources where appropriate have a lasting effect on the health of our community.

The tools on this page will help you make decisions about how development occurs so that the built environment is an asset and contributes to the overall sustainability of the community. Also visit the Energy and Climate Change page of this section for more related information.

Land Development

Principles of smart growth promote strategic placement of the built environment, compact development that preserves open space, and walkable communities where residents can access services without dependence on vehicles. Infill developments are a great way to support the smart growth of our community.

Master Planned Communities

These planned communities generally contain a full range of residential and nonresidential land uses, open space, and public services and facilities. Recent master planned communities associated with neo-traditional design or new urbanism stress open space preservation, integration of land uses to reduce auto trips, a walkable pedestrian network that leads to an “urban village center,” and other design and architectural details that foster social interaction. Civano is an example of a master planned community in Tucson.

Flexible Lot Development (FLD) option
The purpose of the Flexible Lot Development (FLD) option is to provide greater flexibility and creativity in the design of clustered residential development by:

A. Providing incentives to achieve community goals, such as historic and archaeological preservation, preservation of natural vegetation, barrier-free housing, development within low-income areas, and in-fill housing projects. B.Implementing the goals and objectives of the General Plan. C. Consolidating open space and providing for visual, and where achievable, physical connections to open space areas on adjacent properties. D. Efficiently using land and public facilities by means of a more economical arrangement of buildings, circulation systems, land uses, and utilities. E. Preserving to the greatest extent possible existing environmentally sensitive areas and landscape features and amenities, such as significant topography, protected peaks and ridges, natural vegetation, washes, riparian areas and floodplains, and integrating such features with structures and other improvements. F. Permitting flexible residential lot development in exchange for the preservation of natural open space and active and passive recreational amenities on the site. G. Providing usable and suitably located recreation facilities and other public and common facilities. H. Coordinating architectural styles, building forms, and building relationships within the development and with surrounding land development, and I. Encouraging high-quality development within the city.

For more information, please contact the City’s Planning and Development Services Department.

Infill Fee Waiver Program

Mayor and Council initiated the Infill Fee Waiver Program in 1997. They identified an area encompassing approximately 22% of the city, where a reinvestment strategy could be used to spur building and rehabilitation. The program waives fees for plan check and building permits for single family homes.

Downtown Area Infill Incentive District

Mayor and Council created this Incentive District on October 24, 2006 to encourage development in the downtown area. Developments that occur within the district boundaries may be eligible for fee waivers and expedited permit processing as well as other incentives.

Rio Nuevo Overlay District Design Standards

Development Standard NO. 9-10.0 establishes design standards for development in the Rio Nuevo and Downtown Zone.

Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

The Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is an innovative and far reaching blueprint for growing in an intelligent and graceful manner in Pima County. The Plan is designed to benefit the natural systems and residents of Pima County and to save our best lands and most precious resources for future generations to enjoy.

EPA Smart Growth Website

EPA helps communities grow in ways that expand economic opportunity, protect public health and the environment, and create and enhance the places that people love. This site has information related to smart growth including: research, tools, partnerships, case studies, grants, and technical assistance.

Building Construction

Green building principles promote resource efficiency, the use of renewable and non-toxic building materials, and an overall reduction of the built environment’s impact on human heath and the natural environment; structure orientation, Green roofs, rainwater harvesting, grey water system native landscaping, renewable/recycled materials, low/no VOC paints, permeable surfaces

Green Building Programs and Rating Systems

Pima County Green Building Program

EPA Energy Star Program

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

TEP Energy Smart Homes Program

The TEP Energy Smart Homes program is a new home program utilizing the systems approach to home construction. The systems approach deals with health and safety, comfort, durability and energy efficiency. 

EPA WaterSense Program

Saving water also saves energy because it takes energy to deliver water. Look for the WaterSense label to choose quality, water-efficient products and fixtures.

EPA GreenScapes Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) GreenScapes program provides cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for landscaping. Designed to help preserve natural resources and prevent waste and pollution, GreenScapes encourages companies, government agencies, other entities, and homeowners to make more holistic decisions regarding waste generation and disposal and the associated impacts on land, water, air, and energy use.

Codes and Policies

Residential Gray Water Ordinance

Requires the installation of gray water “stub-outs” in all new residential construction beginning on June 1, 2010.

Commercial Rainwater Harvesting Ordinance

Requires all new commercial development to prepare a landscape water budget and supply 50% of the landscape water needs with harvested rainwater beginning on June 1, 2010.

Earthen Wall Structures Residential Building Code

The City amended the 2006 International Residential Building Code to include Section R614: Earthen Wall Structures. This section of the Code begins on page 3 of the amendments. A full copy of the International Residential Code is available in the City Clerk’s Office.

International Energy Conservation Code (2006)

Mayor and Council adopted this code with amendments on June 12, 2007. The provisions of this code seek to maximize energy efficiency. A full copy of the Code is available in the City Clerk’s Office in Chapter 6, sec. 6-40 of the Tucson Code.

Sustainable Energy Standard

In 1998, the City adopted the Sustainable Energy Standard (SES) for all new City buildings. The SES consisted of a modification to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and was developed to serve as the statement of energy requirements for all buildings in Civano. The intention of the SES is that it would also serve as a voluntary sustainable energy standard for other buildings throughout Tucson and Pima County. The SES requires that building energy efficiency is improved by at least 50% over the IECC guidelines. A full copy of the Code is available in the City Clerk’s Office in Chapter 6, sec. 6-40 of the Tucson Code.


Arizona Residential Solar Tax Credit Guidelines and Procedures

The state of Arizona offers a solar tax credit for 25% of the cost of an approved solar device or system. The maximum allowable credit is $1,000 to be carried forward up to five years: it is deducted directly from state taxes owed.

Arizona Grey Water Conservation System Tax Credit Guidelines and Applications

The state of Arizona offers a tax credit for 25% of the cost of the installation of a grey water conservation system. The maximum allowable credit is $1,000 to be carried forward up to five years: it is deducted directly from state taxes owed. The tax credits are available through 2011.

Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency

One stop informational hub for federal tax credits and IRS forms available for:

Consumers- home improvements, cars, solar energy systems, fuel cells

Home Builders

Appliance Manufacturers

Commercial Buildings

Resources and Technology

National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Model Green Home Building Guidelines NAHB's voluntary Model Green Home Building Guidelines are designed to be a tool kit for the individual builder looking to engage in green building practices and home builder associations (HBAs) looking to launch their own local green building programs.

Green Guide for Rehab (LISC)

The Green Guide for Rehab is an in-depth tool to help affordable housing owners and their consultants integrate green building and energy efficiency into the upgrades of their multifamily properties.


Provides information designed to help building-industry professionals and policy makers improve the environmental performance, and reduce the adverse impacts, of buildings, such as design strategies and product guides.

International Conservation Code (ICC) Green Building website

Highlights of the forthcoming ICC/NAHB National Green Building Standard, development of Green Building Certification for Inspectors, and other related information.

Building Safety Journal Article on Straw Bale Construction (pdf from Gila County Arizona site)

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities

In 1999, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a small network consisting of public and private organizations, was founded as a direct result of a research project on the benefits of green roofs and barriers to industry development

Toolbase Services

Technologies for building and construction professionals including construction waste management and recycled products.

Permeable Surfaces

In most non-urban landscapes, rainwater percolates into the ground where it falls, slowly making its way through plant roots and soil to the groundwater reservoirs and aquifers which hold our drinking water. In developed areas, millions of square feet of concrete, asphalt, roofs, and other impermeable surfaces create enormous quantities of runoff which can overwhelm natural drainages, flood the areas where water does collect, and divert water away from groundwater reservoirs. These surfaces are considered impermeable because they are not porous enough to allow water to penetrate and soak into the ground below. New technologies exist to replace traditionally impermeable surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks, and streets, with permeable alternatives that allow water to soak into our aquifers.

Visit Toolbase Services for information about permeable alternatives.

Purchasing and Operations

If your business occupies a space that has already been developed and built, there are still steps you can take to incorporate green building principles into your workplace. Reducing energy use can be as easy as changing your light bulbs and choosing energy efficient office products. Using no-VOC paint can improve indoor air quality and replacing landscaping with native vegetation will reduce water use. Also visit our Energy and Climate Change page for more related information.


Business and Commercial Recycling in Tucson

Energy Star Purchasing & Procurement

These EPA resources are designed to assist procurement officials in smart purchase decisions. Take advantage of online training to understand the full range of purchasing opportunities.

Energy Star Product Guide

Products in more than 50 categories are eligible for the ENERGY STAR. They use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment.

Responsible Purchasing Network

RPN produces Purchasing Guides for a range of products and services, including: Bottled Water, Cleaners, Computers, Green Power, Fleets, Light-Duty Tires and Wheel Weights, Lighting, Office Electronics, and Paint.


Studies show that green buildings improve productivity because they are healthier, resulting in fewer employee illnesses and sick days. The ascetics of green buildings can also improve performance and create a more content workforce. Educating your employees about the steps your business is taking to incorporate elements of green building into the organization will help them make better decisions about conserving energy and water use, the products and paints they use in their homes, and transportation choices. If you have employees that work from home, encourage them to incorporate your green building business strategies into their home office.

Green Buildings Improve Productivity
Health and Productivity Gains from Better Indoor Environments and their Relationship with Building Energy Efficiency by William J. Fisk from USGBC website (pdf)

Place plants in the workplace and on your desk. Indoor plants can abate rising levels of indoor air pollution at home or at the office. Research from NASA shows that many plants are useful in absorbing harmful gases, which helps clean the air indoors. As a rule of thumb, allow one houseplant per 100 square feet of living area. The more vigorous the plant, the more air it can filter. Keep in mind that plants will not do much to alleviate tobacco smoke or dust in the air.

Visit for a list of the top 10 plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon dioxide.

Views of plants increase job satisfaction. Employees with an outside view of plants experience less job pressure and greater job satisfaction than workers viewing man-made objects or having no outside view. They also report fewer headaches and other ailments than workers without the view. 

Nature increases worker productivity. Psychologists have found that access to plants and green spaces provides a sense of rest and allows workers to be more productive. 

Virginia Cooperative Extension: The Value of Landscaping

Visit Project Evergreen for more information about the economic benefits of green spaces.