Articles - June, 2007

REITs Going Greener, Consumers Priced Out of Green Products, Greener Hotels, and Eco-friendly Home Costing (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Real estate industry quietly embracing green development, with 41% of U.S. REITs actively pursuing energy efficiency and green building upgrades. 
  2. Business leaders aver that even though companies are greening products of all kinds, buyers are unwilling to pay a green premium (ed. note = consumers probably think the premium is unjustifiably exorbitant, even with the green components). 
  3. Enjoy your green stay: hotels are rolling out all sorts of green programs, in part because customers demand them, and in part because they save money. 
  4. The eco-friendly house (and renovation) has gone mainstream, but is it really worth the cost? 

Group 41, "CONTAIN Your Enthusiasm"

Hybrid_seattle

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about container architecture, but there’s a good reason to do it today because I’ve received a tip on Joel Karr and Group 41.  This San Francisco-based architecture firm is issuing a innovative project challenge.  Here’s how it works:

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Ramifications: GE Real Estate Moving to New, Potentially LEED-CI Headquarters

GE Real Estate

You may not think this news is all that sexy, but it’s a pretty big deal.  GE Real Estate is an enormous source of capital funding for commercial properties.  To get an idea of what we’re talking about, here are the figures:  their portfolio is weighted heavier in equity investments at 54% with the other 46% in debt investments; the average investment size is roughly $6.5 million; in 2006, GE RE closed $29 billion in real estate transactions; GE RE has $59 billion in total assets.  Long story short, GE Real Estate is a star player in the real estate lending game, and since they invest more on the equity side (and equity investments are smaller than debt investments), they work with tons of customers.

So starting June 25, 2007, GE Real Estate will operate from its new headquarters in Norwalk, Connecticut, at 901 Main Avenue.  901 Main Avenue is a class A+ property and it’s not inherently green.  BUT, GE RE has registered with the USGBC to go green on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors under the LEED-CI (Commercial Interiors) certification system.  LEED Registration is not a guarantee of anything, the project still must be certified upon completion. 

Here’s my take: 
When GE RE is done greening the interiors, people are going to start talking about it.  Employees will like the green building.  The financial benefits of the green building will stand out.  And all those people working inside will start to ask developers why they aren’t pursuing LEED certification, if they aren’t going green.  Now capital is abundant, so this talk will be nothing more than a mere ‘suggestion,’ but eventually, developers will listen and there will be a trickle down.  I’m calling it right now.  GE RE is going to ‘sneeze’ green on their customers and we’re going to see a major ‘tipping point’ in the real estate development industry.  Anyone agree?

Armstrong's HQ Receives LEED-EB Platinum Award

Armstrong HQ

[Video: 4:25 min.Armstrong World Industries, Inc. (NYSE: AWI) is based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and operates in the business of designing and manufacturing floors, ceilings, and cabinets.  Their current headquarters was built in 1998 and is now part of an elite group of buildings to obtain the LEED Platinum certification for existing buildings.  Feel free to click the above link to see video of Armstrong’s HQ building.  The 3-story building is a glass and steel structure that has workspaces for about 235 employees.  Here are a few things they did to take the green plunge:

  • 60% of the building’s waste is recycled;
  • Building water use was reduced to 420,000 gallons (from 800,000 gallons);
  • Less than 1.5 watts/sf of energy is used, which is 1/2 the national average for comparable properties;
  • 75% of the building’s power is supplied by wind energy; and
  • Green Seal-certified cleaning products are used throughout the building. 

Now the question is:  if you own your headquarters, have you looked into LEED-EB certification through the USGBC?  We’ve seen Adobe & Owens Corning do it.  Now we have Armstrong.  Who’s next?

Good Links:
++Armstrong LEED-EB Facts & Information Page
++Armstrong Headquarters Receives LEED-EB Platinum Certification [PR]

Top 3 Ways to Green a Property's Energy Mix

Top 3

With all this discussion about the Senate Energy bill and renewable energy, I thought it was time to kick in and enunciate the ways property owners can elect to greenify, greenize, or make clean by going green, their property’s energy mix.  Generally speaking, there’s wind, solar, biomass, small hydro, and geothermal–all of which are considered ‘green.’  But there’s also nuclear, which is not green because of the radioactive waste; coal, which is not green because of the GHG issue; and natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal but also has GHG issues.  The American grid relies on all these sources of energy, some more than others, and governmental regulations will impact the way the game is played.  Nevertheless, here are three things that a building owner can do now to greenify the energy mix. 

  1. Purchase Grid Connected Green Power from Participating Suppliers – roughly 600 regulated utilities offer green power.  Here, it’s a matter of getting in touch with the right utility company that can service your property and setting up a purchase of green power.  It might be a little more expensive…
  2. Install On-site Green Power Generation – there’s been some talk of a federal "net-metering" standard, but until that point, we’re dealing with a piece-meal system of net-metering.  Check your locality.  Netmetering allows you to send excess electricity into the grid and run the meter backwards.  It feels good when the bills are low.  Every building is different, so one must be diligent to determine what green energy source would work for your location. 
  3. Purchase Renewable Energy Certifications (REC) – this discussion can get rather detailed, so I’m not going to get into this, but we’re talking about offsets here.  All I can say is be careful about who you choose to buy these things from.  If you’re careful, you can make sure the money actually goes to support investments in the right kind of green power.  I’d even suggest exhausting #1 and #2 before working with this alternative. 

Again, location to location, some green energy sources are better than others.  Be smart about it.  These three steps apply to all types of buildings (residential, commercial, etc.).  Also, remember the cardinal rule of energy usage:  conserve first, green second, offset third.  Also, check this incredible article in Buildings magazine called "Green Power’s Future is Now."  It’s an excellent article and what I used to frame this post.  Img.

The Science Barge by New York Sun Works

Energy1k

This is unusual, but incredible, in a weird way.  The Science Barge is a sustainable urban farm powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water.  It’s a mobile illustration of growing food in the city with no pollution or carbon emissions.  Check the solar panels and small wind turbines.  I’m thinking this is another illustration of the savvy behind solar and wind power for residential use.  Via Archidose.

TheScienceBarge

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