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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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Skyscraper Sunday: LEED-Certified Maple Leaf Square in Toronto

Maple_leaf_rendering Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Limited (privately-held corporation with ownership of Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Marlies Hockey Club, Air Canada Centre, and Leafs TV + Raptors NBA TV) is behind an innovative, forward-looking project development called Maple Leaf Square.  Being inspired by the mixed-use projects developing around sports franchise centers such as Dallas and Miami, the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Corporation will be unique in one significant aspect:  it’s green, LEED-certified, that is.  The project, designed by KPMB and Page + Steele, contains two aspiring towers (54 + 50 floors) built on top of a seven story podium, all including the following:  900 residential condominiums, boutique hotel with about 170 rooms, 6,000 square foot daycare, over 200,000 square feet of office space , indoor/outdoor swimming pools, fitness facilities, and high-technology restaurants, sports bars, and retail stores.  It’s the quintessential multi-use development of the future, blending sports, entertainment, living, vacationing, night life, and work. 

Green Features:
In addition to being one of the most technologically advanced building structures in the world, the project contains some important green features (note, technology also can make a building green):  green roof, energy-efficient appliances in every suite, Enwave (low cost, energy efficient supplier of heating, cooling, and domestic hot water supply), individual storage/bicycle lockers, and close proximity to Toronto’s PATH system.  Technologically, the building will use RFID door locks and Intelligent Building Technology (visit the website for a demonstration).

The project has been welcomed with open arms by the public; reports vary, but the Residences of Maple Leaf Square are reportedly 95% sold already.  Talk about unmet demand for a modern, green structure!  Available residences range in size from 400 – 2,100 square feet and price from $200,000 – $1,400,000.  North Tower opens in October 2009 and South Tower in March 2010.  Found by EarthChangeII.

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Redondo Beach House, a Modern Container Dwelling [Video]

Redondo Beach House

If you’ve ever been to a port terminal, you’ve seen the mass quantities of shipping containers used to transport goods all over the world.  With the trade imbalance–US importing more than exporting, the containers that aren’t returned to their origin, waste away here in the US.  But there are a few creative architects such as Adam Kalkin, Jennifer Siegal, and Peter DeMaria (his home pictured above and below), who are using these containers as the basic structure for custom built homes.  The fact is, materials such as steel and wood cost big-time money and perpetually increase in price due to world demand; according to the video, Anna + Sven Pirkl are getting their 3,500 square foot home built at $125 square foot (a pittance for that area’s custom build price that ballparks at +$250 square foot). 

The LA Times also wrote an article about what the family is going to do with the home (think:  zip line + climbing wall). 

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London's Innovative Container City Video + Business Plan Question

[Total Time: 5:06 minutes] I found this informative, richly entrepreneurial video on Container City, which is a container-based urban development in London.  Here in the US, we have some work to do, to get to the point that we support this variety of innovative development.  Demand for a place to rent has been through the roof, so they added another level of container modules to rent out a few more funky flats.  The website is at the following link:  Container City

BUSINES PLAN QUESTIONS: 
I’m writing a business plan based on a container based retail enterprise.  If you have experience working with these containers, could you email me with information on the costs of acquiring a container (including transportation, rehab, + wiring for use)?  Any other information and experience that you may have with these containers is welcome!  Entrepreneurial architects, your expertise is demanded!!!

Bill McDonough's Mixed-Use, LEED Greenbridge Developments

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You’ve heard of William "Bill" McDonough: "Hero for the Planet."  He’s co-author of the wildly popular Cradle to Cradle book and co-founder of the product and process design firm MBDC, which is behind the Cradle to Cradle Certification (C2C) process.  Most recently, the November 2006 issue of Business 2.0 included an article about his sustainable building projects around the world.  McDonough is an architect and the designer of the incredible Greenbridge Developments in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Developers expect to break ground on the project in June 2006 and it will be complete two years later (Spring 2009).  Greenbridge will be the first mixed-use project in North Carolina to achieve LEED certification. 

There will be about 100 residential units in two buildings (7 + 10 stories each), 25,000 square feet of retail space, and 15,000 square feet of office space.  The units include studio – three bedroom offerings ranging from 600 – 2,400 square feet.  As for pricing, we’re talking about $225,000 – 1.2 M.  This development promises to keep in line with sustainable principles boasting amenities such as green roofing and courtyard gardens, solar panels, an urban-style market selling local + organic foods, and a wellness center offering holistic medicine, acupuncture, and massage therapies.  Greenbridge is already 40% sold and is accepting reservations. 

What’s important, however, is that this development is another example of where real estate development for the future should be heading.  Cities are full of buildings that need to be renovated and retrofitted to be more efficient, use less energy, and waste less resources.  These new LEED developments will lead the way in showing other developers that green building has substantial economic + societal benefits.  See also The Daily Tar Heel.

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