Articles - November, 2006

Skyscraper Sunday: Albanese Organization's Luxury, Mixed-Use Tower Seeking Platinum LEED

Albaneseleed Albanese Organization (AO) is a great example of an interesting phenomenon:  once you go green, you don’t go back.  AO is the forward-thinking real estate firm behind two other green buildings, The Solaire and The Verdisian.  Their specialty is sustainable and high performance buildings.  They’ve partnered with Starwood Capital Group Global LLC for their third green project, which has yet to be named, located at 70 Little West Street, surrounded by Battery Place, Little West Street, Second Place, and Third Place.  The $310 million, 33-story project will have 152 condominium units and retail space on the first floor.  Slated for occupation in 2008, the design architect is Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; the building architect is Schuman, Lichtenstein, Claman & Efron; the interior design is by Stedila Design Inc.; and the general contractor is Turner Construction

The glass and terracotta tower will have a curved facade to create river views from all four corners of the building.  Like most modern buildings, this building will include a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, rooftop gardens, dining area, children’s playroom, parking garage (not always a given in NYC), and a lounge room with a fireplace. 

Green Features:
I’ve heard rumors that some LEED buyers (not necessarily this one) are looking for the LEED label and point shopping around the energy efficient requirements–why do that?  The point is, buildings need to be grid-independent and levered less to energy price fluctuations.  By point shopping, you’re losing money by purchasing a hollow certificate (not to mention losing valuable environmental benefits).

Anyway, this building will be 35% more energy efficient than standard code buildings; 5% of the energy load will be provided by building-integrated solar panels and 35% of the building’s energy will be provided by wind generation.  Geothermal systems will provide heating/cooling for part of the building.  Low or no-VOC materials will be used throughout.  There will be a high efficiency air filtration system to optimize indoor air quality ("IAC").  Individual residences will have year-round climate control via digital thermostat that controls a four-pipe fan coil system.  A black water treatment plant will recycle bathroom and kitchen water to resupply toilets and supply make-up water for the HVAC system cooling tower.  10,000 gallons of water will be harvested and used to irrigate the rooftop garden, which provides a layer of insulation for the building.  See also Multihousing News.

Green Cartoon – "Too Tired for Irony" by Tom Toles

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It’s Saturday night and I wanted to jump into the weekend with a cartoon that I noticed on the Building Seattle Green blog.  It made me laugh, but unfortunately, the humor belies a sad reality.  Consider this:  In what way do we encourage greater reliance on oil (through transportation) by land use policies that further growth in the suburbs?  In what way do we encourage building in suburbs by having greater access to cheap gas and enormous, cool vehicles?  Maybe I’m overthinking this, but these issues are more inter-related that one would otherwise think.  Enjoy the weekend!  Tom Toles Comic Archive at Washington Post.  Too Tired for Irony, April 14, 2006. 

Chief Sustainability Officer, Office of Sustainability + Sustainable Business Education

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By CSO, I mean Chief Sustainability Officer and I’m serious.  I’m not one for more layers of bureaucracy and extra non-productive meetings, but this is something that businesses should consider.  After reading this short post, you’ll know why I think businesses should create the position, but you decide and let me know what you think.  Way back in June, NYC Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of an "Office of Sustainability," to explore ways to reduce carbon emissions.  Similarly, I read a recent article in Dallas Business Journal regarding Plano’s (Texas) decision to create a new position and hire Nancy Nevil as the City’s Director of Sustainability and Environmental Services.  Why create a director-level position?  So there could be a point person, an accountable person.  She gets $109,288 a year, and one of her responsibilities is educating the city and its 2,200 employees about ways to reduce consumption of energy and materials.  I’m sure many other cities are doing similar things–Plano decided to do this after visiting Portland and studying their green initiatives. 

Company Position?
If your company is like most, you have the perfunctory recycle bin, but likely you still consume enormous amounts of paper, right?  How does your company manage lights when no one is around?  What’s the company’s recommended setting for computers when you leave work for the day or weekend?  Does the company incentivize carpooling?  Is there a place where bikers can store their clothing and equipment during work, or change?  Generally, where could your company be environmentally conscious and see results on the bottom line (cut expenses)?  Where could your company change its mix or products and services to be more sustainable and profitable?  These queries probably don’t do justice to the value a company could realize by having a specific position for sustainability and environmental issues.  This is innovation!  Think hard about whether your company could benefit from having a CSO.

My Experience and Opinion:
I’m an MBA student and noticed that sustainability courses are catching on in some forward-thinking programs (i.e., Presidio, Green MBA, Stanford, etc.).  So I wanted to find a professor and do some cutting-edge, sustainability research for MBA-level credit because we don’t have any courses on the subject.  Guess what?  I can’t find a soul that’s interested in the research.  Maybe I haven’t found the right person, but I haven’t gotten so much as a response from the department strategy chair.  Why?  Sustainability isn’t on the business person’s radar.  Why?  I can’t figure it out.  These are the surest, noblest money-making opportunities of our time. 

My Plan:
So, I’m writing an outline for an MBA-level course called "Sustainable Strategy, Business, and Entrepreneurship," and I’m going to write the lesson plans, assignments, and exams.  When I graduate, I’m going to pitch the course to MBA schools and teach adjunct-style (still want to work in business during day).  This is a topic that needs to be on our radars.  Image.

Modern + Green Gaia Napa Valley Hotel – LEED Gold

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There’s just one thing that I can’t figure out: why aren’t more hotels going green?  Recently, I blogged about Starwood Hotels creating a luxury, green hotel brand (and there’s also the LEED-certified Orchard Garden), but why aren’t all the other hotels going green?  I have two thoughts:  (1) post-9/11, hotels tanked and lost a lot of money, which they’ve really started to regain from 2004 until now…they’re busy making money and don’t want to shut the place down with expensive renovations; (2) the split between ownership and management leaves a decision making gap that prevents the hotel owner from undergoing large capital improvements; or (3) hotel owners are marketing their portfolios and green (the non-monetary kind) is the last thing on their minds.  But if you ask me, the hotel industry is so levered to energy costs that it’s the only way to go.  Looks like Gaia Napa Valley Hotel agrees with me. 

Gaia is chasing LEED Gold (couldn’t find it in the USGBC certification or registration directory), which is the second highest tier in the green building rating system.  Here are some of its green features:  chemical-free landscaping; energy-efficient heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system using 15% less energy; various water conservation features; solar panels; zero-chlorofluorocarbon cooling system; 100% new growth-certified wood; specialty zero energy lighting throughout the hotel and public areas; and low emission paints and adhesives. 

The hotel incorporates extensive use of Solatubes.  These are tubular skylights that capture sunlight from the roof and direct it into the interior space through a diffusion shaft.  Imagine a periscope, except that it filters in light, not images.

Another thing I’d like to point out, is that this hotel is modern + green.  Innovation has advanced to the point that green looks good.  Plus, if you look at the first costs and the operating costs, in comparison to a non-green building, you’re getting a great deal, so it’s economic too.  Really, there’s not other way to go, especially in the hotel industry!

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Good Architectural Design = Happy Inhabitants

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What’s the point of architectural design?  Depends on who is using the building, but talented designers and architects around the world can do unbelievable things with buildings.  Today’s post is an example of the power of well-designed living spaces.  Enter:  The Happy New House.  Designed by Neil M. Denari Architects (NMDA), the happy house is just that, a place where the Alan Family can express its "family brand."  They wanted a home renovation that expressed their distinct family attributes:  artsy but not artsy-fartsy, cultured but not elitist, spontaneous but not disorderly, informal but not messy, into Macs and iPods but not techie, and into the finer things of life but not extravagant. 

Noticeably, the architect went with multi-toned, bright colors to express the Alan Family brand.  The interior design includes a clever mixture of public and private spaces to allow for individuality, but still encourage "elbow-rubbing" opportunities.  Tons of integrated shelving blends into the modern design and helps reduce clutter, and the outdoor living room blurs the indoor/outdoor barrier, which allows the family to connect to the backyard area. 

We’ve all lived in places that just didn’t work out that well.  The same place might fit another person completely, but the reality is, individuals and families do have differences that can be accounted for with creative design.  The extra cost of designing your home or office, just might pay dividends in productivity, livability, and enjoyability later on.  Yet another reason why first costs could be misleading.  See also Archinect.

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What is LEED; How Does LEED Relate to Green Building; Why Do I Care?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; it’s a consensus-based standard for various types of buildings, such as new construction, existing buildings, building interiors, residential homes, and entire neighborhood developments.  One reason for LEED and the US Green Building Council is to eliminate the confusion regarding what a "green" building is.  Built into the standards are various levels, or shades of green.  I found this slide show at the USGBC‘s website and wanted to share it with the Jetson Green readers.

Why?  Application:
You don’t need to be an architect or large design firm to see how LEED is important.  If you’re a lawyer, and you have a developer client friend, you can say to that person, "Hey, have you thought about getting that project done LEED?"  Or if you’re a budding developer, you can go to the design firm and say, "Hey, I want this thing done LEED, and I know it can be done without too much of a price premium…are you the firm for me?"   No matter what your position is, you may have the occasion to tell a decision maker that they ought to consider LEED/green building; that decision maker will be grateful that you were in the know. 

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