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Climate Change Legal Practice, Green Building Lending, Texas Geothermal, + Green Sans LEED (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. The Law Firm of Holland & Hart Announces New Global Climate Change Practice – The firm is the first and only law firm based in the Rocky Mountains to organize a practice group concentrating on this rapidly emerging area of law and policy.  Holland & Hart’s Global Climate Change Practice Group consists of attorneys who counsel clients on the climate change aspects of energy and natural resources development, industrial energy use, regulatory compliance, renewable energy and energy infrastructure projects, corporate disclosure and governance, carbon markets, litigation, and government relations.
  2. New Resource Bank Aims to Make it Easier to Build Green – A new banking program here aims to encourage developers and investors to start green building projects by offering financial incentives like providing more money at a lower cost, higher loan-to value, and lower interest rates.
  3. Texas Issues First Lease for Geothermal Energy Exploration and Development along Gulf Coast – Texas has awarded the state’s first lease for geothermal energy production to Ormat Technologies, Inc., which plans to explore the renewable energy’s potential along seven Gulf Coast counties.  The company paid $55,645, or $5 an acre, for the right to explore 11,129 acres for pockets of hot water and steam under the ocean floor, the General Land Office announced Tuesday.
  4. Building Greener and Cheaper than LEED – While many argue over the costs and benefits of requiring LEED-certification, some affordable housing developers have shown that building green doesn’t require following the program’s recommendations.

LEED-H Silver, Energy Star, Earth Advantage – Dolph Creek Townhomes

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In Portland, Oregon, there’s a sustainable development called The Headwaters at Tryon Creek, which is a 2.88 acre, master-planned, mixed-income community that prioritizes sustainable building practices, energy + water conservation, wildlife habit restoration, and stormwater management.  One portion of the development includes the Dolph Creek Townhomes, which are 14 for sale, attached townhouses that are LEED Silver, Energy Star, and Earth Advantage certified.  Quite the list of certifications!  These luxury townhouses vary in size from 1,585 – 1,695 square feet, and in price from $369,950 – $379,950…purchasers qualify for the State Residential Energy Tax Credit. 

In addition to saving up to 45% on annual energy costs, here are some of the green features:  solar panels with 80 gallon storage tank, energy efficient windows, green label carpet, formaldehyde free cabinetry and wood products, heat recovery ventilators, on-demand gas and solar water heating, polyfoam insulation, exhaust fans in all the garages, drip irrigation system, and low-flow toilets, showers, and water faucets.  Of course, the floors will be bamboo (hopefully not the Chinese import variety) and the patio will have ipe hardwood decking.  From what I’ve seen, this looks like quite the community. 

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Skyscraper Sunday: LEED Candidate MintoSkyy (Toronto)

Mintoskyy_northeast Going green isn’t all that difficult when sustainability is woven into the fiber and fabric of your company’s existence.  There are a few companies in the business world that survive on a green business strategy.  Right now, it might be a niche play, but things change as everyone else comes around.  Minto is a Canadian real estate company with a history of quality, green developments.  Green is in the company’s fabric.  In 2006, Minto received the Canadian LEED Silver for MintoGardens (Toronto), a 34-story condominium complex.  Now, they’re going after another LEED certification with MintoSkyy.  Minto builds to LEED standards to "promote healthier living, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save residents money, and contribute to a healthier planet." 

MintoSkyy is all about living in a modern, sophisticated environment with expansive windows and breathtaking views.  In addition, suites will have individual meters for water and electricity (you pay for what you use); energy efficient thermal windows; an "all-off" switch at the front door that lets you leave knowing all the lights are off; and energy efficient appliances.  Minto also has a rigid common area management system that minimizes consumption of light and energy resources.  Also, the building will rely heavily on recycled materials, environmentally friendly paints, and a green roof (which reduces heating + cooling costs).  Located at Broadview + Pottery Road in Toronto, this 23-story condo tower looks pretty good to me.  :: Minto ::

Mintoskyy Sleep
View from MintoSkyy (on the right)

The Plenty 20 + Fiberstars' Efficient Fiber Optics

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The February/ March 2007 edition of Plenty Magazine has a really good article called "The Plenty 20" by Danielle Wood.  You won’t find it online, so go pick up a copy.  Generally speaking, magazine lists have a tendency to be contrived, opinionated, and/or incomplete, but I thought The Plenty 20 was rather thorough.  The article profiled an Ohio-based company called Fiberstars (NASDAQ: FBST).  The U.S. government funded the research that became Fiberstars’ Efficient Fiber Optic Technology (EFO) with grants totaling about $13 million.  Now, its lights illuminate the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta. 

How efficient are EFO lights?  Their efficiency is analogous to improving gas mileage in your car from 12 MPG to 50 MPG.  That’s efficient.  So efficient, these lights were used in the green Bill Clinton Presidential Library. 

EFO lights do not emit heat or ultraviolet rays, so they are perfect for museum or archival applications.  One 70-watt metal halide lamp, which connects to a fiber optic system, can equal the output of eight 50 watt bulbs.  Specifically in terms of efficiency, the EFO saves up to 80% on energy consumption, saves on maintenance (requires less work due to longer life), and saves one watt of HVAC for every three watts of lighting because the EFOs do not emit heat.  Not bad.  Further, Fiberstars EFO may reduce mercury emissions by up to 75% and their Reuse-Recycle Program allows customers to reuse 97% of the lamp and recycle the rest.  Currently, most of Fiberstars’ customers are commercial entities such as Whole Foods, McDonalds, Trump Tower, Starbucks, Nordstrom’s, Chevron, etc.  Maybe we’re not that far from turn-key consumer applications?

Here are some of the other companies on The Plenty 20: Nanosolar, ECD Ovonics, Greenfuel Technologies, Envirofit International, GE, Organic Valley, Tesla Motors, Southwest Windpower, Domini, Toyota, Whole Foods, Green Mountain Energy, Konarka, Goldman Sachs, Ormat Technologies, Ice Energy, Green Sandwich Technologies, Green Mountain Coffee, and Naturalawn.

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Would You Pay a Premium to Lease Green Space?

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Here’s the situation.  You have two new 15-story buildings in a good location near downtown.  Both buildings have received several inquiries from potential tenants.  Building #1 is a traditionally-built, modern facility.  Building #2 is similar, but it’s green (LEED-CS + LEED-CI).  A lease for 40,000 square feet of space at #1 is $35 and #2 is $36.50 per square feet.  Would you pay the extra $1.50 per square foot to lease space in the green building?  We’re talking about a serious premium.  I’m interested to hear what your perspective is on this. 

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, these rents are justifiable for a few reasons.  I’m going to clip out a few comments from their article, but feel free to read the entire thing

  • Organizations with business models reflecting sustainability will be more likely to pay the premium. 
  • Although green buildings are going up at an incredible rate, most of these are for use by the owners and most developers view speculative green developments as risky. 
  • There is a dearth of tenable green lease space and requests for green space are falling on deaf ears. 
  • The market is tenant driven right now and tenants have had success cooperating with owners to make green improvements or renovations. 

I think there will be a paradigm shift, but I don’t know how it will happen.  Somehow, the values of individuals and organizations need to shift towards an appreciation of sustainability, and that will create serious, mainstream adoption of green buildings.  Maybe the impetus will be regulatory?  Self-imposed?  Strategic?  I learned in Starting a Business 101, that some of the best opportunities in business become available due to a void or an absence in the market.  If it’s true that some customers and tenants are requesting green space, but the inventory isn’t available, there’s a void in the market that will be filled by the first innovators.  The rest will wake up some day and think, "I thought green buildings were for hippies?!  What’s going on?"  Which is partially an answer to my post the other day.  Via Appraisal Podcasts

Owens Corning Headquarters Receives Silver LEED-EB Certification

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The Energy Star-rated Owens Corning (NYSE: OC) world headquarters building in Toledo, Ohio, has added another badge of honor with Silver LEED-EB certification.  Designed by Cesar Pelli (listed by the AIA as one of the 10 Most Influential American Architects) and built in 1996, Pelli spoke approvingly of the certification, "I am pleased this facility provided the solid foundation needed to earn the recognition that the LEED Existing Building certification provides."  For a couple other examples of LEED-EB buildings, feel free to click over to read about Adobe + Union Bank of California Center.  Owens Corning also runs The Pink Panther Energy Blog, which informs customers on insulation + energy conservation best practices. 

Green Features:
Here are just a few of the green features mentioned in the certification: under-floor ventilation for energy-efficient air delivery and specific control of thermal comfort; low maintenance, indigenous landscaping; easterly facing building allowing for natural lighting control via adjustable shading; and reusable, removable, non-adhesive carpet squares throughout almost the entire building.  See also CO + PRNewswire

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