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.

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?

 

I read today on GreenerBuildings.com that YKK AP America is holding a green building video competition called “Building a Better Tomorrow, Today.” I think it is an interesting way to promote green building and to raise awareness of the innovative techniques that are being used in sustainable building designs, products, and construction.

According to the YKK AP website, the entered videos should be “about an idea, design, product, or project on how America can enhance the built environment for generations to come from an energy-savings, green-building, or sustainability perspective.”  That criteria opens the competition to a broad spectrum of entries, and I’m sure there will be no shortage of ideas to be shared.

The video entries will be posted on YouTube (unless specifically chosen to be submitted privately), so that these ideas, products or projects will be available to the public.  Be sure to check them out.  The contest runs from September 2 through October 15, 2010.

Check the YKK AP website for details about the contest.  And, be sure to let us know which entry you think is the most innovative or creative.

Engineering News-Record (ENR) recently reported in its July 5, 2010 issue that revenue from projects registered with and actively pursuing green building certification by a third-party sustainable-design standard organization–like LEED and Energy Star–rose 16.8% in 2009 for ENR’s Top 100 Green Design Firms.  According to ENR, the total revenue from these projects rose to $3.3 billion, up from $2.85 billion in 2008, and includes both private and public projects, though revenue was largely generated from private sector markets such as retail, hospitality, multi-unit residential and health care.  This is pretty remarkable given that funding for private construction projects has all but disappeared since the banking industry bailout and since the recession hit the development and construction industries like a “ton of bricks.” (pun intended)    

 It would be reasonable to expect that the demand for green building and third-party certifications would decrease during these tough economic times because of the additional cost associated with green building and sustainable certifications.  So, why is green building bucking the recession trend?  Here are my thoughts:

  • Owners are taking advantage of tax credits and other government economic incentives designed to promote reduced energy use and encourage alternative energy production
  • Owners are recognizing that green building is not simply a status symbol or marketing tool to lure tenants—they are understanding that the implementation of many of these green building initiatives will reduce energy and operating costs
  • The cost to build green has come down—the old notion that green building was significantly more expensive than traditional design and construction techniques is no longer true
  • More state and local governments are including green building rating systems in their building codes for both public and private construction

There are probably many more factors that have contributed to the rise in green building revenue despite the recession, which I haven’t mentioned.  What all of this tells me is that we are thinking green now.  Green building initiatives are becoming the baseline for design and construction rather than extraordinary and unique features. 

 Do you believe that green building and sustainability is the new way of doing business for the design and construction industries?