In the last "Green Office" segment here on Jetson Green, I talked about the merits of investing in a Think chair from Steelcase for your office. Need a desk? Some of you may shut down purely at the price tag ($2,200), but there’s a price premium for style + sustainability. You can find the Liege Desk, designed by Jeffrey Bernett + Nicholas Dodziuk, exclusively at Design Within Reach. The desk uses sustainable chestnut or oak veneers and the stainless steel is finish-free. The wood varnish is non-toxic and low in volatile organic compounds. Measuring H 30" x W 60" x D 30", the Liege Desk accommodates storage that can be placed on the right or left, depending on your orientation. It’s a pretty good looking desk solution and would definitely go well with the Think chair. Via Collin Dunn at Treehugger.
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]
In case you haven’t noticed, Hines is one of those smart real estate companies that is leading the way in sustainable real estate. They’re committed to sustainable building and I recently blogged a quote from Hines Chairman + Founder Mr. Gerald D. Hines where he said "sustainability has become a key component of development." Well, it looks like they’re throwing more money at that philosophy, and I think this press release should be a wake up call to all those developers out there that are just throwing up non-green buildings, willy nilly.
Hines announced the closing of a Hines CalPERS Green Development Fund (HCG), which is capitalized with +$120 Million. This equity investment will allow the development of more than $500 M in high performance, sustainable office buildings throughout the United States, certified through the LEED-CS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Core and Shell Program). What’s even more significant than the amount of money that will be invested in green building development, is the fact that CalPERS is the nation’s largest pension fund. This is really going to accelerate the tipping point in green development because CalPERS is such a huge player.
Hines Senior VP and fund manager said, "We have long tried to persuade tenants that there are significant bottom-line benefits to sustainable development and build out. Fortunately, the green movement is gaining steam as the public become more conscious of its benefits. The real estate industry is finally ready for green." I couldn’t agree more. If you can’t tell, this is a big damn deal.
Introducing "Grey to Green." It’s a snippet from the Design: e2 series narrated by Brad Pitt. We need a paradigm shift in the methods we employ to construct US buildings! Watch this video on construction waste and think about the status quo. Did you know that American buildings account for 10% of the world’s energy use? They do.
Part of the draw to modern prefab, for me, is that it presents the opportunity to efficiently, and relatively wastelessly, produce attractive, sustainable living spaces. That’s very important. Technology and process innovation can help us quit wasting energy, supplies, and materials, etc. Construction waste is not only damaging the earth, but by continuing on the current path, we’re just throwing money away (both at purchase and trash points). We need to understand the issues and find creative, innovative, positive, and attractive solutions.
This video is extremely informative, and you can order the PBS series DVD from their website for $29.95. The DVD includes all six episodes (The Green Apple, Green for All, The Green Machine, Gray to Green, China: From Red to Green, + Deeper Shades of Green). I can’t catch it on TV, so I’m going to go ahead and purchase it. Really, watch the video and you’ll realize why it looks to be a good series.
Seriously, yet another reason to build green buildings. The list gets longer and longer. Lower operating costs, higher resale (appraisal) value, healthier work environment, and better workforce productivity, etc. Wells Fargo wants to finance green buildings and Hines wants to develop them. And now, California-based Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company wants to insure them. This is a smart business strategy. If you’re going to insure something, why not insure the top quality stuff? As insurer, you’re dealing with the elite, upper echelon of building developers, operators, and owners. It’s really a no-brainer…
The company will provide green coverage for commercial buildings certified as environmentally friendly in all 50 states starting in late October 2006. It’s the first insurance company to do so and will offer three different forms: