Recently, I blogged about Jennifer Siegal and Office of Mobile Design (OMD) and wanted follow up because I found this video of her Venice, California show house. It’s a short, 2-minute video packed with modern + green information and mentions the following products: Japanese recycled grass board called "Kirei" (Japanese for pretty or beautiful), radiant heating ceiling panels called "People Heaters," the in-wall iPod sound system called iPort, energy-efficient appliances by Sub-zero, a tank-less water heater, and industrial-grade flooring in the bathroom to withstand heavy use. Take a look at some of these products if you’re doing a renovation and enjoy the video if you’re interested in modern + green prefab.
On September 20, 2006, Cincinnati City Council took a bold step to pass an ordinance, at the motion of council members Laketa Cole and Chris Bortz, that provides tax and $ incentives to residential and commercial developers that build or rehab structures to LEED standards (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum). Even more notable was the simultaneous creation of a Community Development Block Grant, which aims to provide financing to residential (low or qualified mixed-income) structures built to LEED standards by paying the difference between the cost of the LEED building versus the cost of the building if it were built to standard codes.
City Council is thinking also about establishing a "green permitting" process, which would allow green developers to bypass the bureaucratic bottlenecks and move to the front of the line for development approvals. This is great news. Developers are always looking for a way to get their projects approved, so green permitting will force them to rethink their options.
The LEED-H standard, which is the USGBC‘s standard for residential green homes, is relatively new, when compared to the LEED standards for commercial building. LEED buildings will start to gain in popularity and provide tangible benefits to the city because green buildings use less water, less energy, and pollute less. And from what I understand, there are tons of cities out there (other than Cincinnati) that have water shortages, energy shortages, and dirty skies–why not empower your citizens and businesses to solve resource problems by building green? It’s one of the smartest things you can do as a politician, regardless of your partisan affiliation.
About one year ago yesterday, Hunt Consolidated Inc. broke ground on a new office tower, which borders on Akard Street and Woodall Rogers Freeway. You’ve probably seen it, it has massive cement beams curving on its northerly face. The building is being developed by Woodbine Development Corporation, which is partially owned somehow in the Hunt Consolidated Empire. I heard from a friend (hearsay, I know) that Chairman Ray Hunt, or some other c-level executive, was asked at a luncheon whether the building was going to be green and he equivocated saying something like, "Well, we’re not going to build green just to build green, but we’ll do it if there are tangible economic reasons to do it."
I did some research and it looks like Hunt Consolidated Office Tower is registered with the USGBC as LEED-CI v2.0, otherwise know as the green ratings standard for commercial interiors. If my understanding is correct, that building is to be 100% owner-occupied, so Hunt is going green inside? Not sure. Here’s what I know. It will be a $120 million, 400,000 square foot, 15 story building. Gensler, which is #2 in the US for having the largest number of LEED Accredited Professionals, will be doing the interiors. So they have the know-how to go green on the inside. The entire structure was designed by Dallas-based Beck Group and the general contractor is Austin Commercial. Looks like it may be going green, but if the decision is still in the air, here’s my two cents: what’s more economic incentive to build green than a $6.3 million tax abatement over 10 years? That abatement should cover the 1% premium (if that) required to go green.
If you haven’t noticed, commercial enterprises use lots of neon in their signage. I drove around the neighborhood and found a few gas stations and a Sonic Drive-in with neons wrapped around the structure. You can tell because the neon lighting breaks at the nodes. Well, LEDs, while still a nascent lighting technology, have the potential to become the future signage lighting behemoth, if building owners can catch on to their benefits. To get to that point, however, the stars will need to align so that the key decision maker does a costing analysis incorporating the operational benefits, in addition to the sticker price (initial costs).
LED Technology Benefits:
LEDs have energy savings of up to 80% over neon lighting. In addition to the energy savings, LEDs differ in size and electronic control. Point blank, with LEDs, there’s reduced maintenance, reduced energy consumption, better light quality output, safer + lower voltage requirements, and low temperature performance. They last longer, too. There’s no gap in the illumination like there is with the neon. And with a technology like LightMark, the units are variable so you use just the right amount for the project.
Costing + Payback:
LEDs pay for themselves in about 2-3 years. When a decision maker is comparing neons (or some other light source) and LEDs, it’s important to make sure that the comparison is apples-to-apples. Use a "lifetime cost of ownership" analysis: (1) initial purchase price + (2) initial installation costs + (3) lifetime energy usage + (4) lifetime maintenance charges. I’d suggest two more external considerations, which aren’t factored into the lifetime cost of ownership. First, consider the extent of liability (i.e., if neons tend to flame up at gas stations more than LEDs, there’s a tangible savings benefit [note - this may or may not be true]). Second, consider the tax implications (i.e., state, local, or federal government offers tax credits/deductions for LED use, etc.).
A few companies that have been incorporating this new technology include Arco, A&W, BP, McDonald’s, KalTire (Canada), Tsutaya (Japan), and Petro-Canada. What it takes, however, is a paradigm shift from initial cost, or sticker price, to lifetime cost, and if owners aren’t making the change, the contractor should speak up and create value for the customer.
Early last spring, I was looking into the faces of 45 bored students, giving my 4 minute business plan pitch for a trendy, green hotel concept geared specifically for young professionals ages 20-40. I had it all laid out: kiosk integration for mundane tasks, high customer service, green shuttle service, LEED certified hotel construction interior and exterior, teamwork style cleaning, paperless everything, free internet, slightly smaller rooms with mega-style, modern art + photographs, etc. People were like, "I don’t know if that will work." "What’s wrong with the Hilton or La Quinta." Well, it looks like my instincts were right: Starwood Capital Group announced plans to launch a new brand, "1" Hotel and Residences, as a luxury, eco-friendly global hotel brand. The first hotels will be in Seattle (late 2008), Mammoth Lakes, Scottsdale, and Fort Lauderdale (in order of opening).
Let’s face it, the entire industry will head this direction because hotels are levered to the cost of energy in two ways: (1) people travel less as transportation energy costs rise and (2) hotel’s profit margin is squeezed by the energy costs of running a building. Up until now, most hotels haven’t really attacked this problem by looking at the entirety of the situation: by building green hotel buildings! So trend-setting hoteliers like Starwood are going to make money because they are operationally smart. I’m excited about this green development. After the initial locations, "1" will expand to New York, Los Angeles, + Washington D.C., soon thereafter.
The hotels will be LEED certified in and out. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will act as environmental advisor for the brand. Each "1" location will donate 1% of its revenues to local environmental organizations. The first four hotels, and most of the hotels, will be new construction, but Paris will be a renovation. "1" emphasizes air and light, offering a fresh, invigorating, and alternative way to travel. Inundated with the "richness, beauty and variety of colors, textures and materials," guests and residents (sounds like a multi-use platform) may not realize the myriad of ways that their building is stepping lightly on the earth.
++Starwood Plans Green Hotels [South Florida Business Journal]
++Starwood + Sternlicht Unveil Groundbreaking ’1′ Hotel Concept [Press Release]
++Starwood Capital Group [Official Website]
Quoting Jennifer Siegal, founder of Venica, California-based Office of Mobile Design (OMD): "I’m interested in how technology is influencing the way we form communities…because our lifestyles are demanding more lightness, our buildings shouldn’t be sitting so heavy." Siegal was featured in the October 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine, and praised as a "fresh face from the front lines of design." In a world where renderings are common and completed projects are not, aka, the prefab world, Siegal is really staking a claim in this ultra-stylish, sustainable chase for comfortable, affordable living.
Siegal’s work includes the Mobile Eco Lab (1998), Portable House (2001), Seatrain House (2003), and the Swellhouse. Her most recent work is a modern, modular home product line called Take Home. Go to the website and take a gander at her captivating architecture. You’ll find also that her work goes beyond the realm of aesthetics and mid-century modern vernacular and into sustainability. That’s going to be where architects will make a huge difference, I believe. In addition to that, I think OMD is taking pro-active steps to clarify the pricing of their prefabs and make modern + sustainable living more affordable.
Sustainability is a key issue in the design process at OMD. Prefab presents the natural green benefit of avoiding all the construction waste that plagues stick-built construction. With the Take Home, OMD also offers precision steel construction, high-end amenities (Italian Boffi kitchens + Duravit bathrooms), fully landscaped courtyards with pools, passive cooling systems, and AVAILABLE 100% solar power and water heating. Also available is bamboo and radiant heated flooring. Homes range in size from 800-5,000 square feet and cost $210-270 per square foot. Not bad at all!