Articles With "Green Business" Tag

Skyscraper Sunday: SOM, Green Skycraper Firm of the Year

Jinao_tower_nanjing_1There’s just no stopping Skidmore, Owings + Merrill.  They are the (as nominated by Jetson Green) Green Skyscraper Firm of the Year.  I blogged about them in regards to the zero energy Pearl River Tower, which absolutely blows me away.  Have you seen the thing?  I also blogged about them on 9/11 because they designed the green Freedom Tower, which is going to be an architectural beacon of freedom and innovation for decades in the future.  When it comes to sustainability and architectural excellence in skyscapers, SOM is the number one firm.  That’s hands down. 

SOM has an enormous portfolio of work in China and they are working on over 15 skyscraper projects there right now.  Interestingly, it’s easier to be innovative in China because the climate lends itself to such behavior.  Firms in the US are reluctant to take on commercial/security risk.  They don’t want to tick off neighbors or trade unions either.  China on the other hand wants to push the envelope.  They have cheap materials and a desire to build green structures.  They are a command economy, so there’s not much public outcry, even if the building is outlandish.  Plus, global recognition helps their situation.  I get heaps of search queries on my blog everyday for a post I did on the Pearl River Tower–that’s global recognition.   

Nanjing_jinling_hotel_1 Nanjing_greenland Shenzhen_avic_plaza

I’ve included some pictures of buildings that SOM has designed for construction in China.  There’s too much to say about each, but one thing should be noted, however:  these buildings are all going to be done in 2007-2008.  There’s a quick turnaround time in China–they have the attitude to get things done.  Notice the delay for buildings like this in the United States and query whether that has anything to do with (in comparison) innovation, politics, determination, or drive.

Nanjing Greenland will have irregularly-spaced slots for green space that "march vertically up the facade."  Jinao Tower will be built with less steel than a traditional skyscraper.  It will be built around a diagonal grid bracing system (similar to the one used for Hearst Tower of New York).  Jinao Tower also features a double-skinned surface for solar shading and insulation.  Each SOM buildling is chock full of innovation. 

Extra Links:
SOM Company Site
Not Innovative?  SOM’s Skyscraper Projects in China Tell a Different Story [Architectural Record]

Sustainability is Good Business: Obstacles to Green Building Progress

Usgbc_guiding_principles_1 Going green doesn’t mean you’ve turned into a hippy or gone granola, it means you’ve taken a pro-active step to create an efficient, economic, healthy work or home environment.  If you haven’t noticed, there is a nascent (i.e., in terms of popularity), accelerating movement in design + construction towards making buildings sustainable.  It’s likely that 10-20 years from now, the term "green building" will be anachronistic.  All buildings will be "smart" and independent.  But for now, only a small percentage of buildings are heading in this direction and there are a few stubborn reasons to explain why.  In this post, I’m going to talk about sustainable buildings in the context of commercial endeavors, but the principles apply equally to residential.

The fact is, sustainable buildings are better performers: LOWER operating costs, BETTER sales, + HIGHER productivity.  Case studies abound to support this assertion, but the real question is why aren’t businesses flocking to adopt sustainable design principles in their buildings (old + new)?  In a Globe St. article by Brenna Walraven, it was suggested that there are two main obstacles to green building proliferation: 

  1. Energy-efficiency Capital Myth – the myth is that the only way to improve building efficiency is through substantial, significant investments.  My write-up on Adobe’s green building disproves this myth.
  2. Lack of Awareness – this is self-explanatory, but one should consider the impetus to being unlearned on green building, especially for those professionals who make it their line of work to design, construct, + create high-caliber buildings.  Is it political?  Too treehugger-esque?  My response to last-adopters:  sustainable building is to building as Japanese manufacturing is to manufacturing. 

Beddington_zero_energybedzed Buildings that are resource efficient will cost LESS, not more.  Why?  You are using less.  Big changes can be made with slight operational adjustments, and huge capital investments aren’t always required to obtain the greatest benefits for a certain project (new + old).  Further, if you have an architect, property manager, or developer that says it will be too expensive to go the sustainable route, walk the other way and hire someone else.  That group hasn’t been doing their industry homework.  There is a huge paradigm shift in this industry.  If you don’t pay attention, you’ll be like Ford, trying to figure out what makes Toyota so good.  Source via Globe St.

Fab-ulous Friday: October 14, 2006 Leo Marmol Lecture on Marmol Radziner + Associates

Marmol_home On October 14, 2006, the DME (Dallas Modern Expo) Modern Lecture Series will host Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner + Associates.  Marmol is set to speak on the following topic:  "From Design-build to Prefab:  The Process of Marmol Radziner + Associates."  This event is on Saturday from 2:00 – 3:00 pm, at the Frontiers of Flight Museum on Lemmon Avenue, and costs a mere $10 to attend.  Tickets can be purchased online, or at the door, but seating is limited.  For those of you that are die hard prefab enthusiasts, you can take a cheap Southwest Airlines flight into Love Field (right next door to the place) and attend the lecture. 

Leo_marmol_lecture_image_1

This is a preview of what Marmol plans to speak about: "Bridging the divide between architecture and construction, Leo Marmol has created a unique design-build practice led by architects that combines innovative design, thorough research, and construction precision into a holistic approach to restore and create meaningful modern spaces. The firm’s multidisciplinary approach combines architecture, landscape, interior design, furniture design, construction, and prefabricated housing to create the ability to manage the execution of designs with the same rigor with which they were designed. Leo will explain how the firm’s experience in restoration of mid-century modern homes has influenced new residential projects as well as the design and fabrication of the firm’s new line of modern prefab homes."

Nevada_house_marmol Utah_house_marmol California_house_marmol

Marmol Radziner + Associates:
Marmol Radziner Prefab website.  As I’m writing this post, a Treehugger feed popped up announcing a Marmol Radziner Factory Tour. Treehugger calls their prefabs "the most beautiful prefab in the world."  In their factory, they produce steel-made homes that are easy to customize to modern + green standards.  Actually, they’ve been designed to achieve LEED certification:  they use structural insulated panels (SIPs), FSC-certified wood, low-VOC green seal paint, solar panels, natural light design, etc.!  These prefabs are the embodiment of everything Jetson Green espouses:  modern architecture + sustainable living.  This will be an awesome lecture event.

September Scientific American: All About Green, Sustainability, Energy + Carbon

Scientific_american_september_2006_1 The September edition of Scientific American went completely environmental with topics ranging from nuclear power to renewable energy, from hydrogen transportation to sustainable building, from climate repair to carbon emissions, and from coal to advanced technology.  This issue really covered the important topics in a smart, sophistocated, and thoughtful way.  I wanted to relate some of the concepts that the magazine mentioned in its article by Eberhard K. Jochem, "An Efficient Solution."  Generally speaking, the crux of the article is that wasting less energy is the quickest, cheapest way to curb carbon emissions. 

Need for Green Building:
Swiss_re_tower_london Nearly 35% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and 66% of all energy converted into a form usuable for human consumption is lost in conversion.  By improving the process whereby energy becomes usuable for human consumption, it is possible to reduce carbon emissions.  And more efficient buildings will play a role in this process.  If we assume that energy prices will continue to rise, every piece of technology that saves energy is an economic, business opportunity to be captured. 

Building Construction:
Many buildings are constructed with only the first costs in mind.  Maybe this is attributable to the process of bidding for projects, which seems to only include an analysis of the total build cost.  The life-cycle costs of a building, which would consider the operating costs, never enters into the calculation (unless developers request bids for products with green features and the life-cycle cost is implicit in the construction). 

Example – Green Renovated Apartments:
Edificio_malecon_hok_1The article mentions a project in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with 500 living spaces.  These places were difficult to rent.  So the apartments were renovated to adhere to low-energy consumption standards, which required about 30 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year.  Subsequently, rental demand for the apartments soared to 3 x capacity.  As a business person, this should ring a bell:  an automatic waiting list, pent up demand, nominal advertising as word-of-mouth grows legs, and a healthy business conscience.  Not a bad strategy. 

If you’re thinking about renovating, building, or replacing something, you should know about energy-efficient, green products before making the decision to purchase.  Here are some practical tips from the article for using less energy. 

  • Stove – Convection ovens can cut energy by roughly 20%.
  • Walls – thick cellulose insulation can prevent heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer).
  • Refrigerator – new refrigerators use 25% of the energy required for a 1974 model (just buy all energy star electronics + appliances).
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs – uses 25% of the energy required for incandescents and last 8-10 times longer.Menara_mesiniaga_ken_yeang_1
  • Computers – LCD screens use 60% less energy than conventional CRTs.
  • Windows – Double panes filled with low-conductivity gas (w/ edge seals made of silicone foam) reduce heat flow by 50%+ . 

Overall, the entire magazine was pretty amazing and offered examples of how different buildings are saving money and energy.  Buildings mentioned include the Swiss Re Tower (London), Menara Mesiniaga (Malaysia), Edificio Malecon (Buenos Aires), ABN-AMRO Headquarters (Amsterdam), Szencorp Building (Melbourne), Genzyme Corporation headquarters (Cambridge, Mass.), and Procter + Gamble’s factory (Germany).  Go out, get a copy, and read it…you’ll be smarter for doing it.   

Adobe's San Jose Building Goes LEED-EB Platinum Green

Adobe_headquarters_leedeb As a person smitten with the entrepreneurial bug, I always love to read Business 2.0 magazine when it comes in the mail.  And it’s not that the magazine has ideas for me to start businesses, but it makes me think differently about trends and the future …it makes me come up with new business ideas.  Business 2.0’s September Magazine contains an article about Adobe’s retrofitted USGBC-certified, LEED Platinum building.    

This article is awesome because Jeff Nachtigal, the author, actually quantifies each retrofit and illustrates that going green makes economic sense. Some of my counterparts in the blogosphere are adamant that going green is about doing the right thing for our planet, and I respect that, but as a businessman and entrepreneur, going green must make economic sense. Generically speaking, public companies have a fiduciary duty to the shareholder to create value, so there should be some financial incentive to adopt green concepts into buildings. Now there is. 

Here are some of the eco-friendly renovations and the break even calculations:       

(1)  Waterless Urinals with Nontoxic chemicals:
Cost:                        $35,374
Annual Savings:        $14,896
Breakeven:               2.4 years

(2)  Automatic Faucets:
Cost:                        $110,000
Annual Savings:        $  24,000
Breakeven:                4.6 years

(3) Compact Fluorescent Lights:
Cost:                        $ 11,000
Annual Savings:        $105,000
Breakeven:                .11 years

(4) Automated Irrigation System:
Cost:                         $ 3,610
Annual Savings:         $10,000
Breakeven:                .36 years

(5) Timed Outages of Garage Exhaust Fans & Outdoor Lighting Systems:
Cost:                        $    150
Annual Savings:        $68,000
Breakeven:               .002 years (immediately!!)

These are hard, quantifiable savings. The payback on investments like these is relatively soon, the most attenuated being close to five years out. That's not a bad payback period at all! So these are rational, smart, responsible decisions, and other companies should take notice that Adobe has raised the bar for building operating efficiencies. It's time to hop on the train.

What’s more amazing is that Adobe has been able to foster the right business climate that allows employees to notice waste and make the right changes on a going forward basis. That’s where the real benefits will be realized…and further, employees buy into the benefits and go home making similar changes to their homes. Then they will tell their friends how they saved on their monthly utility bills because of some pragmatic, and economic, changes. Great article Business 2.0!

Good Links:
++Adobe's Announcement to Work with USGBC to Go LEED
++Press Release of Adobe's Receival of Platinum Certification
++Adobe's Environmental Committment
++GreenBiz Artice with CEO Comments

Differentiation Strategy: EcoBroker, GreenHomesForSale, Etc.

Hawaiiprefab Applications for building permits have slowed down, some projects have been tosssed, and interest rates are inching higher. Homes sales will be ugly, to use the headline of one news article. All the while, real estate agents are scampering, trying to drum up business and continue the high life. I’m not a real estate agent, but from what I understand, the good ones make real good money and the bad ones make good money, so it hasn’t been that bad of a market…until, the Fed started to cool things off. Enter: EcoBrokers, GreenHomesForSale.com, and differentiation.

I noticed two articles on the same day about EcoBrokers, one on USGBC website and the other on MarketWatch. Becoming an Ecobroker means differentiating yourself from hundreds of other run-of-the-mill real estate agents, and it’s smart business. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the 2005 green building market ($7.4 Billion) is expected to reach from $19 to $38 billion by 2010. The tipping point, or the point where more green homes are built than non-green homes, is supposed to be in around 2007.

According to the MarketWatch article, buyers are interested more in the energy-saving, cost-cutting, sustainable features than the "save the earth" rhetoric (go figure!). And while features can vary from home to home (read: there will be a green standards war just like the current standards war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray), these EcoBrokers are going to have a leg up in explaining to purchasers and sellers the best ways to market homes. Certification for EcoBrokers will cover topics such as energy-efficiency ratings, asbestos, VOCs and lead paint, and indoor air quality.

Even more interesting, at the website, www.ecobroker.com, there is a designation guarantee that says the following: "Earn the EcoBroker designation, and apply the marketing and sales skills you learn. During the first year of your designation, you will increase your personal commission income, or we will refund 100% of your designation fee." From what I understand, the costs are $395, so that should be money well spent. The market is heading that direction (as the NAHB quote urges), so it’s smart to get in early.

Hawaiiprefab2 Another website is www.greenhomesforsale.com. I like the concept; it’s kind of a DIY-type place, and looks like it can be an attractive place for home listing as the listings increase. I looked at some of the listings and they can hardly be considered green (McKinney, Texas home), but it’s a good start. I found a prefab in Hawaii, that I know I’m gonna dream about tonight–if only money was sustainable on my backyard tree!

What I don’t understand about this website, however, is why they don’t invest some money in design and get rid of all those convoluted google ads, etc., sticking up all over the place like a bunch of weeds. It’s hard to take a website serious with all those cheap pay-per-click ads all over the place…my recommendation: pick a strategy for cash generation and stick with it–drive that strategy home. Looks like it costs about $60 to list for 3 months, so stick it out while your making your way down the long tail of sales.

Overall, I digg the future of what’s going on in the green real estate industry. It would be a smart move for real estate agents to get on this and learn the jargon. As the demand for green homes increase, those that can’t speak the jargon will be left trying to catch up. And might I suggest, as a parting note, since buyers are interested in the cost-benefits of green, the jargon includes being able to calculate payback periods, breakevens, inflation, and discounted cash flows, etc.

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