The green building trend that has taken hold across the US in the past few years, and is surprisingly evolving toward a whole new level. Whereas before when there were only a few green real estate developments, today this trend in sustainable development has expanded to whole communities and neighborhoods as well.
The west coast city of Portland has been well known as an urban-design innovator, particularly for its transit-oriented developments, and is noted to be among the pioneers of green building and design.
Single-Family Home Builders Are Now Joining The Trend
The basic tenets behind green building- energy and water-efficient buildings that have features that stress the natural over the chemical, the recycled over the new and the renewable over the finite- have now become firmly mainstream.
According to environmental and real estate consultants, big developers today are slow to move, but they still see a using eco-friendly designs and materials green building. Even in the suburbs, which are home to large-scale builders of single-family homes, there is a lot more consumer interest swelling. In a McGraw-Hill Construction survey done in March of 2006, it forecasted that green building would reach a “tipping point” in 2007 and that two-thirds of US builders will be constructing greener homes.
Why Home Builders See The Need To Go Green
Home builders and real estate developers and are not simply riding the green building trend purely out of a sense that it’s the right thing to do. The housing and development industry knows that they can’t afford to be left behind. By 2007, it is expected that at least 6% of the nation’s non-residential construction, which represents a $15 billion slice of the industry, will be green, according to green-building experts, as six years ago it was less than 1%. More real estate developers are finding that using green technologies and construction materials adds no more than 1%-2% to total costs, which area easily recovered through energy savings.
Offering Incentives For Developers To Go Green
At present, the federal government, 15 states and 46 cities now require new public buildings to fully comply with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), that requires the use of non-toxic building materials, among other things.
Four states and 17 cities now offer incentives for LEED-rated private buildings. The Green Building Council has certified nearly 550 buildings across the country since 2002, and recent real estate developments have adopted eco-friendly standards by creating greener multi-structure projects, such as South Waterfront in Portland, Oregon. The Green Building Council is also working on creating LEED standards for single-family homes as well.
The corporate world was the first to see the value of going green that are way beyond energy savings. Businesses and companies now notice less absenteeism among workers, less time lost to asthma, allergies and other illnesses aggravated by mold, stale air and chemicals found in many conventional buildings.
However, to large corporations like Ford, Bank of America, Target, Toyota, Honda, Starbucks,Adobe and others, going green also was about image-building as well as cleaning up the environment and cutting costs. Many corporate giants know are aware that aside from image-building, the products they make should also be green, along with their manufacturing processes and factories as well.
Being environmentally friendly was once just about recycling and using products that had minimal impact on the planet, but now it has spread to real estate. Driven by the ever important green consumers market, home builders are starting to build homes that are more efficient, and are eco friendly.
The push towards eco friendly real estate started with the government backed ‘Energy Star’ program, which was more aimed at saving the consumer money rather than saving the environment. It covers such aspects as home appliances, heating and cooling systems, high performance windows, home insulation, and exterior air seal. Energy Star homes are typically 20% to 30% more efficient than normal homes. In order for a home to receive an Energy Star qualification, it must pass an Energy Star inspection.
In 1998, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification was introduced. This certification took the whole idea of sustainable green building and development practices to the next level. In addition to the items covered by the ‘Energy Star’ program, LEED covers such items as:
- Site selection. For example, not built within 100ft of water, does not impact endangered species, not built on public parkland, not built on floodplain.
- Home Air filtration.
- Construction waste management and recycling.
- Use of environmentally preferred products and materials for construction.
- Landscaping and irrigation system (minimal amount of grass, drip system irrigation for plants, native planting, irrigation systems connected to weather station).
- Nontoxic pest control.
- Surface water management.
- Reduction of local heat island effects.
Based on these and other criteria the builder can be awarded one of 4 levels of certification.
Lets take a look at a real life example of how developers and builders are trying to become more eco friendly. The Daybreak Utah development is the largest new home development ever to be built in the State of Utah. When complete it will have over 14,000 homes all of which will be Energy Star compliant. In addition to this the Daybreak Community Center was awarded a silver LEED certification. They were awarded this certification based on the following achievements:
- More than 40% of the pavement is either shaded or light colored to reduce the heat island effect.
- Storm water runoff is controlled in order to prevent water pollution.
- Outdoor water usage reduced by 50% via the use of native plants and high efficiency irrigation system.
- Indoor water usage reduced by 22% by using low flow fixtures.
- Ground source heat pump system utilizes the earths constant temperature to efficiently provide heating and cooling.
- Use of high efficiency lamps.
- More than 57% of the construction waste was recycled.
- High level of materials with recycled content were used for construction.
- Promoted the use of locally constructed materials thus reducing transportation impacts,
- The building was designed to accommodate educational, community and recreational resources. This combined use of facilities provided savings in physical space, and reduced the mechanical, material and parking.
Daybreak is just one of many eco friendly developments that can be found, and with Green consumers here to stay, builders and developers will continue to build more environmentally friendly homes and developments.