Green Developments


 by Cheryl Treadwell

Today’s guest post is written by Cheryl Treadwell.  Cheryl is a member of the Construction and Labor and Employment sections of Chamberlain Hrdlicka’s Atlanta office.

Green building initiatives are typically associated with large corporations, governmental entities, and expensive, custom-built homes because these are typically the projects that receive the most publicity and attention.  However, I wanted to highlight a unique green building initiative that is being used by a local non-profit group to improve the homes and lives of economically-disadvantaged families.

The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (“GHHI”) is part of a national movement to create green, healthy and sustainable homes in low-income areas.  The Center for Working Families, Inc.  (“TCWFI”) is a non-profit organization that is leading the charge in Atlanta.  Through public-private partnerships, TCWFI is updating older homes in Atlanta neighborhoods near Turner Field by providing weatherization, energy-efficiency, lead hazard reduction, and other measures.

By addressing asthma triggers, allergens, lead poisoning and other unsafe conditions in housing, TCWFI is working to reduce the prevalence of certain illnesses, medical costs, and absences from school and work.   TCWFI will also provide training and green jobs for residents.  This investment in residential areas will obviously result in energy conservation and reduced energy costs, which is usually the focus of most green initiatives.  However, TCWFI is also taking a community based approach by considering the long-term economic and social advantages of “Going Green.”   Job training, economic stimulus, health benefits, and higher property values are just some of the benefits resulting from this partnership.

What I really like about this program is that it is a reminder that the fundamental principles of green building are really based upon improving the quality of our environment, through the enhanced performance and efficiency of the buildings in which we live and work.  Beyond the LEED certifications and Energy Star ratings, there are people whose lives are better because of this program.

To learn more about TCWFI and GHHI or volunteer, visit http://www.tcwfi.org.  This is a very interesting program that I think will continue to gain traction in Atlanta as well as in other cities.

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I read an article recently on the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s website in which representatives from local property management firms expressed opinions about the costs v. benefits of applying for LEED certification for their buildings and projects.

Some of the property managers that were quoted in the article said that they did not seek LEED certification—even for buildings that would likely meet LEED standards—because the costs of filing for the certification were too high.  Additionally, they state in the article that they don’t believe that they have lost any tenants for non-LEED buildings.

As an alternative to LEED certification, some of the property management firms are seeking other green building/energy efficiency certifications such as Energy Star ratings.  In some instances, the property management firms themselves have developed their own “green building” promotional branding, which highlights the sustainable and efficiency characteristics of the property.

Of course, all of the property management firms identified in the article have embraced LEED buildings to some extent within their businesses and portfolios—even those firms whose property managers felt that LEED certification costs were too high for some projects to be of value.  So, obviously none of these firms have completely

Do you agree that LEED certification costs are too expensive to be of value to property management firms or building owners?

 

The Georgia Public Service Commission announced this week that it has approved a new Solar Power Tariff to increase Georgia Power’s purchases of solar power from independent producers by 2500 kilowatts.

I mentioned this proposed increase in a post following the Southern Solar Summit in back in August, when PSC Chairman Lauren “Bubba” McDonald announced the news at the summit to a group of solar industry professionals and advocates.

In a statement issued by the PSC this week, McDonald claims that Georgia now can “lead 32 other states in solar energy.” However, there is still more that can be done here to promote solar energy projects. States like New Jersey and Pennsylvania still beat Georgia in solar production despite the fact that these states do not have nearly the solar capacity of Georgia.

Last night I attended the annual fundraising event for Southern Polytechnic State University’s Construction Management Program.  This event was full of construction industry leaders, academics, and construction management students and alums.  The keynote speaker was Jim Jacoby of Jacoby Development.

I was happy to see that overall the mood in the room was upbeat and positive about the future of private development and construction in Georgia (and across the country).  Even though many construction companies are relying solely on public projects to keep them going right now, they are planning for the future and making sure that they are ready to be competitive when the rebound starts.

The other big “take away” message I had from speaking to individuals and from Jacoby’s presentation is that the next wave of private development of any kind is going to be green—in virtually all respects.

Jacoby is definitely known for his visionary thinking.  His company is famous for developing Atlantic Station in midtown Atlanta—which involved turning the site of an old steel mill with significant environmental issues into one of the largest mixed-use communities with residential, office, retail, and entertainment all within a few blocks.  But it’s clear from his presentation that the next wave of development we will see from in this country from the private sector is going to be “green” in virtually every capacity.

For example, one of the big projects Jacoby is working on right now involves the gasification of solid waste (garbage that would otherwise go to a landfill) into gas that creates enough electricity to power over 25,000 homes from one plant.  He also talked about re-developing former auto manufacturing plant sites into alternative energy production centers or more “smart growth” developments like Atlantic Station.  In fact, just about every prospective project that Jacoby discussed served the dual purposes of being good for the community and the environment.

It’s refreshing to see that future private projects will not only use green initiatives, but that alternative energy, reduced carbon footprints, and sustainability will be the key features of these developments.  This suggests to me that green projects and developments are now profitable and desirable.  There’s no looking back now.