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Modern + Green Gaia Napa Valley Hotel – LEED Gold

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There’s just one thing that I can’t figure out: why aren’t more hotels going green?  Recently, I blogged about Starwood Hotels creating a luxury, green hotel brand (and there’s also the LEED-certified Orchard Garden), but why aren’t all the other hotels going green?  I have two thoughts:  (1) post-9/11, hotels tanked and lost a lot of money, which they’ve really started to regain from 2004 until now…they’re busy making money and don’t want to shut the place down with expensive renovations; (2) the split between ownership and management leaves a decision making gap that prevents the hotel owner from undergoing large capital improvements; or (3) hotel owners are marketing their portfolios and green (the non-monetary kind) is the last thing on their minds.  But if you ask me, the hotel industry is so levered to energy costs that it’s the only way to go.  Looks like Gaia Napa Valley Hotel agrees with me. 

Gaia is chasing LEED Gold (couldn’t find it in the USGBC certification or registration directory), which is the second highest tier in the green building rating system.  Here are some of its green features:  chemical-free landscaping; energy-efficient heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system using 15% less energy; various water conservation features; solar panels; zero-chlorofluorocarbon cooling system; 100% new growth-certified wood; specialty zero energy lighting throughout the hotel and public areas; and low emission paints and adhesives. 

The hotel incorporates extensive use of Solatubes.  These are tubular skylights that capture sunlight from the roof and direct it into the interior space through a diffusion shaft.  Imagine a periscope, except that it filters in light, not images.

Another thing I’d like to point out, is that this hotel is modern + green.  Innovation has advanced to the point that green looks good.  Plus, if you look at the first costs and the operating costs, in comparison to a non-green building, you’re getting a great deal, so it’s economic too.  Really, there’s not other way to go, especially in the hotel industry!

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Bill McDonough's Mixed-Use, LEED Greenbridge Developments

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You’ve heard of William "Bill" McDonough: "Hero for the Planet."  He’s co-author of the wildly popular Cradle to Cradle book and co-founder of the product and process design firm MBDC, which is behind the Cradle to Cradle Certification (C2C) process.  Most recently, the November 2006 issue of Business 2.0 included an article about his sustainable building projects around the world.  McDonough is an architect and the designer of the incredible Greenbridge Developments in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Developers expect to break ground on the project in June 2006 and it will be complete two years later (Spring 2009).  Greenbridge will be the first mixed-use project in North Carolina to achieve LEED certification. 

There will be about 100 residential units in two buildings (7 + 10 stories each), 25,000 square feet of retail space, and 15,000 square feet of office space.  The units include studio – three bedroom offerings ranging from 600 – 2,400 square feet.  As for pricing, we’re talking about $225,000 – 1.2 M.  This development promises to keep in line with sustainable principles boasting amenities such as green roofing and courtyard gardens, solar panels, an urban-style market selling local + organic foods, and a wellness center offering holistic medicine, acupuncture, and massage therapies.  Greenbridge is already 40% sold and is accepting reservations. 

What’s important, however, is that this development is another example of where real estate development for the future should be heading.  Cities are full of buildings that need to be renovated and retrofitted to be more efficient, use less energy, and waste less resources.  These new LEED developments will lead the way in showing other developers that green building has substantial economic + societal benefits.  See also The Daily Tar Heel.

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Trend Analysis: When Remodeling, Green > Luxury

Green_remodeling Whether you’re a real estate developer, owner, seller, broker, agent, speculator, investor, enthusiast, or whatever, there’s a trend that is important to grasp.  I read news of a survey that illustrates the trend.  Here’s what it said:  Over 50% of homeowners would like to make improvements to their homes and given a choice of improvements, homeowners would opt for the eco-friendly improvements.  Even when luxury upgrades are available.  This was the scenario in a survey performed by Wells Fargo:  Select among nine home improvement choices, if you were given $50,000: 

  1. 24% Nation/24% West Coast = Solar panels, energy-efficient windows + appliances
  2. 12% Nation/14% West Coast = Gourmet kitchen
  3. 11% Nation/11% West Coast = Luxury bedroom suite or master bathroom

Basically, when it comes to remodeling, everyone is taking the green road.  These statistics show what features people will come to demand in their homes and properties.  Application?  If you’re a developer, go for the energy-efficient windows, stock the place with the right appliances, and get each home solar ready.  If you’re a homeowner, go green before you go luxury.  Via residential architect.  Image via www.greenbuilding.com

Green Prefab: The Vital House by Ulterior Mode

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If you’ve heard of the Husten-Haskin house (mentioned in NYTimes + SF Chronicle), then you’ve heard of the architect behind the the Vital House prefab:  Erin Vali of Ulterior Mode.  The Vital House is designed to be both economical (1,500 sq-ft. at $300,000) and eco-friendly.  Practically speaking, the firm is Brooklyn-based, so this prefab design will serve the east coast, at least in the near short-term, but this four-bedroom model was designed to adapt to virtually any location.  The prefab utilizes solar-power and passive heating during the winter (with double-height walls on the south + east orientation).  It also has water-filled tanks placed on the south + east spaces, which absorb radiant energy and distribute it through the house.  Interestingly, construction is raised slightly off the ground, which accommodates both flat and sloped land sites.  Another benefit of raised construction is that wind + air can cool the home.  Some of the other specifics on the Vital House are still in flux, but I think this is a good start.

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Entrepreneurial New Resource Bank + Green Lending Residential Solar Systems

New_resource_b Sustainable business entrepreneurship requires sophisticated financiers, so I wanted to let the Jetson Green readers know about an innovative, newly-founded banking institution called "New Resource Bank."  They are "financing sustainable resources in [their] community."  The bank was started by a group of entrepreneurs with expertise in the banking industry, and their start-up story is revealing:  240 founding shareholders subscribed to $24.75 M of the bank’s stock offering, and the community backed it as well bringing the initial subscription amount to $35 M–that’s a 60% over-subscription.  This made it one of the largest initial capitalizations for a start-up bank in Northern California.  Talk about suppressed demand for sustainably-minded banking institutions and investments!

They are all about green.  The bricks + mortar bank was certified LEED-CI Gold.  Plus, they announced an alliance with SunPower Corp. (company that manufactures high-efficiency solar cells and panels) to provide one-step financing of residential solar energy installations.  Under the program, customers work out a home-equity type loan that allows monthly payments on the solar installation while they save money on their electricity bills.  Factoring in governmental incentives, and if there are local incentives, you could end up with a mad case of energy and financial independence.  Typical financing is for 25 years on a system ranging from $20,000-40,000 (before federal, state, + local incentives).  If you’re a Californian, after the Governator’s program kicks in, there should be no reason not to go solar.  Tip via GreenBiz.

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Sustainable Building Precursor: Opportunities + Widgets

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Every now and then I get a question on green building, or I’ll ask someone a question on green building, and almost every time, the reaction I receive is bitter beer face.  What’s the problem?  It’s like by saying the word "green building," I’m a hippie, a crazed environmentalist, or worse: "a tree-hugger."  I don’t know about hippie, but words like "environmentalist," "tree-hugger," and "sustainability," are losing that subtle, pejorative connotation in a quick way.  In fact, the real smart cities (i.e., San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Honolulu, and San Diego) are often the greenest.  Catch my drift?  Green = Smart; Green = Opportunity.  Intelligent people are rethinking antiquated notions about the environment and are moving in a green direction. 

That said, I want to clarify and delineate the two main categories of green building that you might be interested in:  (1)  Building and (2) Maintenance.  Lets explore the myriad of sustainable opportunities to be found in each category. 

  • Building – this includes new construction, renovation, and rehabilitation.  Opportunities to save money + energy, pollute less, create less waste, and discover new uses for old materials abound.  There are hundreds of entrepreneurial opportunities along the building spectrum from design to build, from deconstruction to renovation.  We’re talking xeriscaping, getting solar panels, incorporating passive solar design, insulating correctly, using the right windows, and finding the right mixture of water, electricity, and gas-guzzling appliances. 
  • Maintenance – this includes everything related to using and abusing a structure on a going forward basis.  You will find money + energy saving opportunities in energy efficient appliances, light bulb choices, decorative decisions, and lifestyle choices.  Here, we’re talking about choosing the right TV, light bulbs, lamps, blinds + shades, decorative paints, and furniture.  We’re also talking about cutting out waste in your lifestyle, like running the water while you brush your teeth for 8 minutes every day. 

Think big, think innovative, and think independent.  Going green requires taking proactive choices about how you interact with the world we live in.  I like to think of all these green opportunities as web widgets that you can pull out of the sky and place them in your home.  I’ll take the Energy Star appliance widget, the plug-in hybrid vehicle widget, the CFL light bulb widget, the zero-VOC paint widget, the dual-flush toilet widget, etc.!  For motivation

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