Today's post is written and contributed by Yeves Perez. Yeves is the founder of the Eco Investment Club and is a vocal proponent for green building. We have been in communications the last few weeks as he gets ready for his GreenMeet in New York on November 19th discussing the topic "Where Green Dollars Fund The Green Movement." Perez, a resident of San Diego, expressed his concern for those families affected by the fires in Southern California and wanted an opportunity to write about green building in such a way as to help with the rebuilding process. This post will be the first in a 5-part series that will take a look at the opportunity for green building, not only in Southern California but in other areas of our country and world where building, re-building, or new construction is taking place. As many people continue to cope and contemplate their next step, this becomes an excellent opportunity to talk about the benefits of green building. It is with sincere respect for those affected by the fires in Southern California that I post this article.
Contributed by Yeves Perez, founder Eco Investment Club (email)
As the world witnesses the most devastating wildfires in California’s history, the citizen’s who have endured this tragedy have “absolutely” decided to rebuild their homes, some within hours of watching them burn to the ground. The air quality is thick from the fire’s rage, viewable from space, unhealthy to breathe. However, from the ashes of this disaster, the residents of Southern California are faced with an incredible opportunity to join the fight against Global Warming by rebuilding “Green”.
At least in the pacific northwest. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service plans to update their program to include ways to identify sustainable properties. MLS reports will now have check boxes that tell about a home's green features...like whether a home used recycled materials in construction, has energy efficient appliances, or meets certification standards like LEED or Built Green. Actually, it was only a matter of time before the real estate industry responded to customer demand. We will see this change incorporated in MLS services across the country. All it takes is a few tweaks to the system...hopefully these systems will also incorporate ways to search for real estate agents, architects, builders, etc. that have sustainability (LEED) certifications. As the market continues to slow, you will see more people involved in the real estate industry distinguish themselves from others by obtaining certifications like LEED AP. It makes good business sense and is the proper response to customer demand. Thanks Ashley!
++Urban Ashley [website]
For some reason, I love this picture...I think its because of the wind turbine on top. Some people install one CFL in their house and call it good...these guys add a little wind mill on top! The Green Building is a mixed use development that was designed by Terry Farrell Architects who had their work cut out for them...they had to design this building on a weird triangular plot of land. But they did it and without any parking garages! Due to the location of the structure, there are tons of public transportation "links" around the area, which eliminated the need parking space. Instead, bicycle parking bays were built. A few of the other green, eco-friendly aspects of The Green Building:
1. A roof-mounted wind turbine that will generate electrical power for communal areas.
2. Solar energy for hot water generation will be captured using roof-mounted panels.
3. Designed to achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions.
4. 40% less water consumption.
5. Highly efficient communal gas boilers were installed.
6. Facilities in the structure to promote tenant recycling.
7. Full length, triple glazed windows on the south facing side of the structure to maximize solar heat gain.
8. No baths in the residences. Showers only. The water taps are designed to use the minimum amount of water necessary.
In 2006, the architects were awarded a Sustainable Civic Trust Award for The Green Building development.
PS: Utah is overbuilding the market and soon builders are going to be losing their shirts. I went golfing today in an area called Eagle Mountain. It's located about 25 miles southwest of Salt Lake. First of all, it is a pain in the rear to get to...driving once was bad, I can't imagine commuting. Its basically a two-lane road to get there and traffic is horrible, stop and go the whole time. Anyway, the golf course was cool but they are building houses out there like crazy. Big ones, 4,500 sq/ft and above. Almost every finished house out there had a for sale sign in it, one next to another next to another. And they were actively building more. Nothing like over-building an area and then letting inventory sit. I guess they can't stop the show now...but if ever you wanted to make a low ball offer on a house, Eagle Mountain, UT is your place.
The Alcyone apartments are located in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. Built as a joint venture between Vulcan Real Estate and Harbor Properties, the Alcyone apartments were Seattle's first LEED-certified residential project. They are very urban and designed for the young and hip who prefer walking to driving. The Alcyone features energy efficient windows, a central gas-fired domestic hot water system, steel framing (instead of wood) for increased durability, low-VOC paints, electric vehicle charging stations, bike storage stations and a rooftop garden that recycles rainwater. In building the structure, 80% of the construction waste was recycled. All of this results in lower utility bills, cleaner air, more natural light, increased sustainability and healthier indoor living environments. Heads up from Urban Ashley.
++Alcyone Apartments [Website]
Public REITs took a beating this week, which got me thinking. Analysts are still claiming that REITs are undervalued...but their value reflected in their stock price continues to fall. It seems like the trend for REITs is that the weak performers get privatized (Crescent) and strong ones remain strong. However, one of the stronger performing apartment REITs, Archstone-Smith Trust, announced last week that they are considering an offer to be purchased by Tishman Speyer Properties and Lehman Brothers, throwing a wrinkle into the "only the strong survive" mentality.
Quick refresher: A REIT is a company that invests in all sorts of properties, usually within a certain sector. For example, sectors can be commercial properties, residential properties, hotels, etc. Sort of like a mutual fund for real estate. Public REITs sell shares in the open market, like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). One of the advantages of a REIT is that its earnings are not taxed as long as the REIT distributes those earnings to its shareholders every year.
So are REITs undervalued? Why are they experiencing sharp declines in their stock price? Those are good questions with many different answers, depending on who you listen to. I am still developing my theories but if you have one of your own, please comment.
I still think there is room right now for an all green REIT, a REIT that invests only in LEED-certified properties! LEED properties are grabbing the attention of potential tenants, especially in the commercial property market. Buildings are more efficient, operating costs are lower, employee satisfaction is up, architecture is cutting-edge, communities want them, skylines benefit from them, local governments want well-designed and well-publicized structures...which all lead to tenant interest, demand, and ultimately occupancy. Healthy balance sheets containing appreciated assets occurs over time as a result of building a real estate portfolio with strong properties that have low vacancy rates, low operating costs (relative to built to code buildings), strong management teams and great designs. I will keep noodling the Green REIT idea...
General Growth Properties Inc.
SL Green Realty
Liberty Property Trust
A new documentary has surfaced that explores the North American phenomenon of "suburban sprawl." I haven't seen it yet (trailer below) but it looks really interesting. If anyone has seen it, please comment below and tell us what you think. The documentary explores how this "sprawl" is embedded in our culture and is "eating the planet." The film was written and directed by Gary Burns and Jim Brown. Check out Jetson Green's post on the top ten problems with sprawl and Stephen's post at greenbuildingnyc.com. Thanks guys!
Set just a few blocks north of Salt Lake's downtown district (500 North and 300 West), Marmalade is bringing sustainable, contemporary living to one of Utah's most historic districts. With tremendous views of downtown and the capitol building, Marmalade will be a mixed-use property that blends environmentally-responsible living with urban design. Designed by Prescott Muir Architects and developed by Howa Capital, Marmalade will be a breath of fresh air for the Salt Lake area and will fit in nicely with the new downtown redevelopment project that is taking place over the next 5 years.
You will definitely find as much space as you are willing to pay for with units ranging from one-bedroom condos to full on three-bedroom penthouses. The design cultivates natural sunlight with floor-to-ceiling windows and space is not in limited supply with open floor plans and balcony spaces starting at close to 1,000 sq/ft for the one-bedroom units (2,000 sq/ft for the penthouses). The one-bedrooms start at $284,000-$325,000 and the three-bedroom penthouses are going as high as $750,000 right now (Price List on Page 3). Keep in mind that this project is still in the beginning phases. I drove by a couple weeks ago and they havn't even broken ground yet. Once construction is complete, any available units will probably increase in price.
The units will have gourmet kitchens, highlighted by natural stone counter tops and Energy Star Appliances, and spacious bathrooms, featuring large bath-tubs and glass-enclosed showers. If you live at Marmalade, you will be able to walk downstairs and shop at organic grocery stores or get something to eat at the side street cafes. The plan for Marmalade reminds me of being in North Beach (SF) for some reason...maybe because of the vibe that they are going for.
Marmalade also has a few green features to mention. Energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems, with programmable thermostats, will be in each unit. Coupled with low-E glass windows and low-VOC paints and building materials that provide improved air quality, Marmalade will be a cool place to live and breath. The homes around Marmalade right now are a bit run down. Over the past 15 years, the homes have been somewhat neglected but that should change once construction begins. It is seriously a sweet place to live and the views are fantastic!
Everyone deserves a piece of the "green" pie. At least that is what Enterprise Community Partners ("Enterprise") is all about. Enterprise grants equity to non-profits and for-profit developers to build green space for low-income residents. The catch? Create sustainability by incorporating green standards in their projects. Obviously the projects will have to meet certain standards for their tenants (i.e., rental housing projects should have at least 25 units reserved for renters with incomes below 60% of area median income) to receive the funding from Enterprise. So far, they have set some pretty lofty goals in terms of funding but they are definitely seeing success. In 2004, they launched the "Green Communities Initiative" aimed at providing more than $550 million to build affordable green housing. One such project is Broadway Crossing in Seattle (pictured), which is home to 44 affordable apartments in Seattle's Capital Hill. Found in the heart of a dense, urban neighborhood close to public transportation, Broadway Crossing boasts Energy Star appliances and lighting fixtures, southern and eastern facing units, low-flow water fixtures and green friendly paints, sealants and carpet. One thing I haven't figured out is Enterprise's business model (i.e., how they generate a return on their investment). Comments?
This is a question that I have been mulling over for about two months. I am curious as to what people think. FYI, this question isn't about the pawn shop structure/building itself. Obviously, you could construct a pawn shop out of sustainable/green products with various energy efficiencies. But my question is more focused on the socio-economic impact of pawn shops. On one hand, pawn shops recycle various products and sell them at a price that is extremely affordable because of the wear and tear a particular item has experienced (note: sometimes you can find inexpensive gems). On the other hand, pawn shops typically don't increase relative property values and many times they are located in high crime areas, which offer patrons easy cash now in exchange for collateralized items or very high interest rates. The following cartoon is very telling (btw, hock means pawn).