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Caveat Emptor: The Green Sheen

Bw_march_26_2007_cover Sure, the housing market is in a bit of a lull right now, but BusinessWeek’s article on page 131, "How to Make a Deal Bloom," was totally irresponsible.  BW presents five tips for residential home sellers: (1) Get on the Net, (2) Dress Up the House, (3) Don’t Overprice, (4) Be Green, and (5) Forget About As Is.  Here’s what they say under Be Green: "Environmentally friendly features are in, especially if buyers don’t have to pay for them.  You can give your home a green sheen inexpensively by replacing incandescent bulbs in light fixtures with energy-saving compact florescent ones.  Put filters on the faucets and a compost bin in the backyard."  You might as well call it a veil or mask, because this isn’t green, it’s green-washing.  With a few add-ons, the seller is putting out the vibe that the house is green and the buyer unwittingly infers that it has more beneficial green features.  That’s quite deceptive. 

Buyers Tip:
Don’t buy into this hype, you’ll be disappointed by the results.  Don’t think you’re getting something special if you have CFLs, water filters, and a compost bin.  Sure these green add-ons are helpful, but don’t be swayed.  If someone shows you these things and says their home is green, here’s a model reply:  "Cool.  Can you show me the results of the energy audit?  I’m interested in knowing about the AC SEER rating, the windows, and all the Energy Star appliances.  How much energy does that refrigerator use?  Did you landscape green, too?"  Let’s try to be discerning.

Philips Wants More Efficiency, DOE Selects 13, + Lennar Gets Crazy Solar (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Homebuilder Lennar to Build Largest Solar Homes Development in U.S. – According to a deal with Sacramento Municipality Utility District (SMUD), Lennar will build 1,254 energy-efficient homes with solar power systems as a standard feature in 11 communities in the Sacramento area.  SMUD will provide a maximum of $10.9 million in incentives and Lennar will receive the rebates after homes are constructed.  That’s about $8,700 per home for solar.
  2. Philips Supports a New Call-to-Action to Adopt More Energy-Efficient Lighting in North America – A congressional coalition of energy efficiency advocates announced plans for proposed legislative action for a major shift toward incorporating high-efficiency lighting technologies in home and office settings. The call-to-action was introduced by Philips Lighting North America, the Lighting Efficiency Coalition, Congressman Don Manzullo (R- Ill.) and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to support the adoption of more energy- efficient lighting in North America.
  3. DOE Selects 13 Solar Energy Projects for up to $168 Million in Funding – U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced the selection of 13 industry-led solar technology development projects for negotiation for up to $168 million (FY’07-’09) in funding, subject to appropriation from Congress under President Bush’s Solar America Initiative.  These projects will help significantly reduce the cost of producing and distributing solar energy.

One Bryant Park, Greenest Skyscraper in the World? (S2)

One Bryant Park Rendering

If you’re going to office in what looks to be the greenest skyscraper in the country, you should also have a sustainable business strategy to go along with it.  One Bryant Park, soon to be known as the Bank of America Tower, is the perfect place for a company that just announced a $20B initiative to support environmental lending.  Designed by Cook + Fox Architects and developed by the Durst Organization, One Bryant Park is shooting for LEED Platinum certification.  It’s a 2.1 million sf, 54-story, crystalline office tower located right in midtown Manhattan and is slated for completion in 2008. 

ABC News recently ran an article on some of the more interesting green features of the building.  Interestingly, it will only cost about 1-2% extra (of a total $1.2B) to include all the green additions, but those are expected to be paid for within a 2-4 year window as a result of saved energy expenses.  That’s the business case for green building.  There will be rainwater capture, floor-to-ceiling windows for natural lighting, advanced double wall technology to allow light and block heat, air cleaned of 95% of its particle matter, a floor duct air system controllable in each room or office, three state-of-the-art natural gas fuel cells to create on-site energy, building concrete made of 45% blast furnace slag for stronger construction, and daylight dimming and LED lights for reduced electric usage.  The result:  these green additions have the anticipated benefits of reducing energy consumption by 50%, reducing potable water consumption by 50%, reducing storm water contribution by 95%, and using about 50% recycled materials in construction.  That’s a lighter footprint. 

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Bank of America's $20B, Green Residential Traction, + Daylight-Savings Tips (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Bank of America Announces $20 Billion Environmental Initiative – BofA announced a $20 billion initiative to support the growth of environmentally sustainable business activity to address global climate change. Bank of America’s ten-year initiative encourages development of environmentally sustainable business practices through lending, investing, philanthropy and the creation of new products and services.
  2. Residential Green Building Slow to Gain Momentum – The major homebuilders, who account for 80 percent of all homebuilding activity in the nation, face a unique challenge in implementing green building on a widespread scale. Many have added energy-saving features and experimented with environmentally friendly materials but have not yet been able to sign on a critical mass of buyers willing to pay more for them.
  3. Easy, Eco-friendly Ways to Put Those 21 Extra Hours of Evening Daylight to Good Use This Spring – Tomorrow, the entire nation will spring forward three weeks early, gaining an extra 21 hours of evening daylight. Since energy conservation is the driving force for the early time change, Lowe’s is encouraging homeowners to utilize these hours wisely with some simple, green projects that would make Mother Nature smile.

Don’t forget to spring forward tonight. 

American Dream 2.0: The Phoenix SUT

Side_profile

Tonight, I had the great opportunity to talk with Ed Begley Jr. at the unveiling of the Phoenix Sport Utility Truck in Dallas, Texas.  Ed is a really nice guy, and he’s smart, too.  He knows his stuff.  He was showcasing the Phoenix SUT, which is a five-passenger, all-electric, freeway-speed sport utility truck.  I test drove it and had a good time.  I see the future with this thing.  I really do.  Actually, I punched it coming off the line, and it had some get up and go.

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PVC Debacle, Green Affordable Housing, Home Depot + Green Roofs, + Corporate Environmentalists (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Hugging the Tree-huggers: Environmentalists at the Corporate TableBusinessWeek article on why so many companies are suddenly linking up with eco-groups.  Hint: Smart business. 
  2. Enterprise Encourages Legislation to ‘Green’ Affordable Housing – Enterprise joins Congressmen Adam Smith (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Lewis (D-GA) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) in support of legislation to "green" affordable housing by promoting energy efficiency, resource conservation and sustainable development in low-income communities across the country.
  3. The Home Depot Foundation Awards $300,000 Grant to Further Support Green Roof Development – Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) and Earth Pledge (EP) are pleased to announce the receipt of a $300,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation to support their combined efforts to advance the green roof industry in three key cities: Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles.
  4. USGBC’s Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee Issues Final Report on PVC – The Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC) of the USGBC issued its final report to USGBC’s LEED Steering Committee (LSC) on the technical and scientific basis for a PVC-related credit within the LEED® Green Building Rating System™.  The report raises broader questions; LEED Steering Committee to decide next steps, policy agenda, and potential actions.

ON PVC:
The existence of this struggle between PVC supporters and the USGBC suggests that PVC is not so green.  If you lobby hard enough, throw enough money at the cause, and wear enough people down, you can win in our day and age.  Generally speaking, people don’t stand up for what is right because doing so would require taking a visible position.  Taking a position requires persistence, diligence, ethics, and uncompromising, unwaivering fortitude.  So I ask, Mr. USGBC… do you have what it takes?  I hope you can swim upstream on this one or your existence will be completely and utterly futile.  If you can’t decide what’s green and what’s not, there is no need to certify buildings according to your ‘green’ standards.  imho.

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