[Run time: 54:30 min.] I was reading the Scobleizer and found a fairly substantial video interview with Toby Long, founder of the San Francisco-based, design-build firm CleverHomes. Cleverhomes is one of those companies swimming upstream in a construction river of anti-progress, anti-innovation, and staunch traditionalism. I love the Scoble laugh, seriously, it makes the interview pretty good. Long talks about the interface of technology + construction, or what I’m calling Construction 2.0, with an added dimension of sustainability. Going forward, the environmental consequences associated with construction need to be figured into a given project’s analysis. He also mentions structural insulated panels (SIPs), building information modeling (BIM), sustainability, and modern vernacular. Get past the beginning and give it go…
Some cities require LEED or green buildings. Some cities fast track the permitting process for green buildings. Some cities provide tax incentives or some sort of creative financing for green buildings. Nevertheless, developers say the economics of green buildings don’t work–they say the government needs to do more to support green buildings. On the other hand, the EPA says the government provides enough support via federal tax breaks up to $1.80 per square foot and other miscellaneous energy conservation programs. What do you say?
The fact is, the boom in green buildings is being driven by (1) tenant demand and (2) federal, state, and local incentives. But are there any other drivers pushing the green movement?
- Social Pressure – depending on your business model, green buildings may be required to keep the sustainable message consistent corporate wide.
- Lower Operating Costs – even if green buildings are more expensive to build, they are cheaper to operate, in terms of maintenance, water consumption, and energy consumption.
- Marketing Advantage – this is related to #1, but a little different. Caution on the green washing, but a green strategy can be good for (re) positioning according to the competition or targeting specific consumers.
- Recruiting Magnet – instead of developing a corporate presence on Myspace or Second Life, why not do something substantial by making a difference? Some of the best talent is going to companies that have a presence in savvy, green buildings.
- Impairment – I’ve read from both Harvard Business Review and Ernst & Young that non-green buildings are going to be obsolete and could face big-time impairment charges.
Green buildings are leasing up and other buildings tend towards higher vacancies (lower rents). The best talent is going to the greenest companies. Oil and coal companies are irritating customers and worrying shareholders because they won’t change their ways. People are choosing companies with their wallets–they stop frequenting environmentally insensitive companies. Water and energy is becoming a constrained resource and businesses that lower their costs by using less resources have a competitive advantage over competition. These intangibles need to be considered when thinking about green buildings, because after all, it’s about value not cost.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 ::
- U.S. Homebuyers Will Pay Premium For Green Homes – More than half of homebuilders surveyed report that buyers are willing to pay a premium of between 11-25 percent for green-built homes. The same builders report that the average green homebuyer is between the ages of 35-50 with a college degree and fair understanding of green products.
- CBS RADIO Launches its First ‘Green’ Focused Radio Station – CBS RADIO announced the launch of 94.7 The Globe, its first "green" focused radio station. The Washington D.C. station will operate using renewable energy to power its 50,000 watt signal. This move will contribute to lowering the threat of global warming through the purchase of energy resources generated by wind. Additionally, station vehicles will be replaced with hybrid models. See also 94.7 The Globe.
- Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott Unveils ‘Sustainability 360’ – President and CEO Lee Scott today unveiled "Sustainability 360" — a company-wide emphasis on taking sustainability beyond reducing the company’s direct environmental footprint to engaging Wal-Mart’s associates, suppliers, communities and customers. Scott also announced the company’s intention to introduce "Global Innovation Projects" — one of which is a challenge for Wal-Mart associates and suppliers to start thinking about how to remove non-renewable energy from the products the company sells.
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.