By Beverly Bidney
With the U.S. Green Building Council and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program driving the green building movement, the industry is realizing that going green is an attainable and affordable goal for new and existing properties.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is working to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated. The goal is to create environmentally responsible, healthy and prosperous buildings that improve the quality of life. Since living and working in healthier environments is beneficial to everyone, being designated as a “green” building is an asset to any property.
What remains a challenge is educating the public and members of the industry about the benefits of environmentally friendly buildings. Fortunately, numerous industry professionals have made the commitment to promote the green building movement in South Florida.
When Realtor Carl Hildebrand isn’t selling properties, he volunteers as programming chairman of the South Florida chapter of USGBC. He educates the community about green building by speaking to groups about various aspects of becoming LEED certified.
“Consumers are beginning to get more savvy about green building,” says Hildebrand. “They know a LEED certification can be important and add value to their investment. Although the better systems of green building may cost more up front, ultimately, they will cut the cost of operating a building.”
LEED certification promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. Each variable is awarded LEED points. When a building is complete, a third-party LEED professional inspects the project and sends the report to Washington for USGBC approval. LEED certifications are either basic, gold, silver or platinum, based on the point system. All buildings, old and new, can become LEED certified.
Not surprisingly, architecture firms are at the forefront of the green movement. Two venerable Miami firms, Perkins + Will and Zyscovich Inc., have integrated green standards into their own offices as well as clients’ buildings. One of Perkins + Will’s projects, 3333 Biscayne, is a 14-story, 400,000-square-foot office condominium with retail and a parking garage. The property has been designed as a sustainable, green building.
“Everything we design is sustainable, whether its LEED certified or not,” says Pat Bosch, design principal at Perkins + Will. “Sustainability isn’t applied to design; it is design.”
A successfully designed sustainable building incorporates climate conditions, and 3333 Biscayne epitomizes the practice. In addition to the materials and engineering specifications used in the project, including the type of concrete, fresh-air intakes, gas-fueled generators and optimum HVAC systems, the building is wrapped in a unique, computerized, sun-shading system that reduces glare and heat gain within the building.
“You can’t tell by looking at a building that it is green,” Bosch says. “That’s the magic. It’s all about substance, not image.”
Zyscovich incorporates green aspects into all projects but will apply for LEED certification for only a few. Designing a green building is inherent in how a project is initially conceived. The firm approaches each job as a team effort and utilizes a variety of consultants including the architects, engineers, interior specialists, landscape architects and the client. The goal is to deliver the best product to the end user and add value by creating a healthy, green environment.
“It’s important to get the right team for the building,” says Carolyn Mitchell, Zyscovich director of landscape architecture and president of the South Florida chapter of USGBC. “Everyone has to be knowledgeable and know the systems. It’s all about how the systems work within the design. Building green isn’t an attitude; it can’t be sprinkled onto a project, it has to be integrated into it.”
Mitchell’s role as a landscape architect is unique in the development of green projects. She assures the landscape is integrated into the design. The importance of how people and a building relate to the environment is critical to the success of a green property. The use of natural light and open site lines to the outdoors enhance the experience in a building.
Awareness of green building is increasing as more people ask if buildings are LEED certified. Building green is becoming a way to brand a property, and some developers have realized the marketing potential it holds. Since older buildings can be retrofitted and become LEED certified, any new construction that doesn’t start out as a green building today is destined for obsolescence.
“People want the cache of having LEED certification,” says Mitchell. “They have figured out the added value of that type of building. You have to be green to compete. When real estate professionals learn how to market that value, it will increase even more.”
Realtor Jackie Fernandes is on the Majestic Properties Green Committee, which she believes is unique to the Miami Beach real estate firm, and is working toward becoming a LEED accreditation professional. She also renovates homes, using as many sustainable systems as possible. As a Realtor with a commitment to green building, Fernandes tells her clients all about the benefits of living a green lifestyle. Energy star appliances, solar panels and recycled materials are some of the approaches she uses.
“Some clients are aware, others need to be sold on the idea,” says Fernandes. “It’s a choice people will need to make. Ultimately, people should think about the environment and their long-term health. We take vitamins to make sure we are healthy, we should take the time to make sure where we are living is healthy. The more people learn about it, the more they will realize how important being green is.”
Although materials used in green building can be more expensive, the money saved by using energy-efficient systems will more than make up for the extra up-front costs. Additionally, health problems related to poor air quality diminish in green buildings.
From the inside, out
Air quality inside a green building is inextricably related to the air quality outside. Recognizing that global warming and a need for energy independence are important issues, Nicholas Gunia founded Dream in Green in 2005. The non-profit organization’s mission is to develop and implement projects that promote energy conservation and efficiency, environmental sustainability and the use of renewable energy. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of building green as a way to solve the greater challenges facing the planet.
To that end, Dream in Green developed an awareness program for use in schools. Last year, three Miami-Dade schools participated: Palmetto High School, the Mast Academy and Ransom Everglades. The program teaches about the environmental issues and challenges the schools to get involved in solutions through recycling and energy conservation.
Dream in Green is also developing programs and special events that include information on using renewable energy credits and retrofitting one’s lifestyle to conserve and live more efficiently with respect to our resources.
“The future is going to be green, there’s no question in my mind,” says Gunia. “In the past, the hippies were the only ones concerned. Now green is a whole different ball game. It means being smart, conserving resources and saving money.”
Green building and living might ultimately save our homes, offices and planet. Kermit the Frog must be pleased that being green has become so easy.
Perkins+ Will architects
Dream in Green
U.S. Green Building Council
A survey of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) home builders conducted last year by McGraw-Hill Construction on the green building market found that:
• 2 percent, or $7.4 billion, of the residential construction market was green last year
• 63 percent of the green home buyers said their green purchases were motivated by the lower operating and maintenance costs that come with energy- and resource-efficient homes
• 85 percent of the green home buyers said they were more satisfied with their new green homes than with their previous, more traditionally built homes
• 40 percent of home owners who had recently completed remodeling or renovation work on their properties had used green products or materials
• 92 percent of the builder members participating in the McGraw-Hill research said that they are moving toward green building because it’s “the right thing to do”
• New green home owners tend to be affluent, well-educated, in their mid-40s, married, female and more likely to live in the South or the West
• In addition to lower operating and maintenance costs, environmental concerns and their family’s health were significant motivating factors for buying a green home, cited by 50 percent of the buyers who were surveyed
• More than 60 percent of those polled said that consumer awareness, additional costs and the limited availability of homes are obstacles to green homes gaining a bigger market share.
Green Kitchens Cooking Up
Future residents at MINT, Key International’s 53-story condominium tower currently under construction on the Miami RiverFront, will enjoy environmentally conscious appliances to outfit their organically designed kitchens.
“When making these selections, two very important factors were energy efficiency and ensuring that the products were manufactured with bio-friendly materials,” says developer Iñigo Ardid. “These benefits are combined with unsurpassed quality and attractive design, which means that residents at MINT will enjoy an upscale lifestyle without worrying about a negative impact on our fragile environment.”
MINT kitchens will feature cooking surfaces from European appliance manufacturer SMEG, which operate using induction cooking, during which the surfaces never get hot enough for the user to be burned. Induction works by transforming electricity into magnetic waves, which react only with cookware, ensuring that only the cookware heats up. As a result, induction cooking uses 50 percent less energy than the typical ceramic cooktop common in today’s market, and cooks twice as fast as the most powerful gas ranges.
The kitchens will showcase ovens and dishwashers that can double as works of art, from architect Renzo Piano’s line, SMEG the Piano. The 27-inch oven model was specially designed for MINT and will not be available to U.S. consumers until 2008. It is the most energy-efficient model in Europe because of its construction with insulating materials that conserve heat inside the oven’s cavity. This conserves 20 percent more energy than popular American models, and results in additional air conditioning energy savings, because the kitchen air will not become hot. SMEG is also one of the top two producers of energy- and water-efficient dishwashers in Europe, because of unique designs that allow heat from the initial washing cycle to be absorbed and used throughout the rinsing and drying process. This results in the use of 20 percent less energy and 20 percent less water than traditional models.
Residences at MINT will be outfitted with Liebherr refrigerators from the multi-billion dollar German conglomerate based in Zurich that has emerged as the global leader in environmental initiatives for the appliance industry. Liebherr is the first appliance manufacturer worldwide to comply with RoHS (Restriction of the use of Hazardous Substances) in all electrical equipment. All of Liebherr’s North American appliances are ENERGY STAR qualified, meeting or exceeding the requirements of the government program.
The eco-friendly kitchens meld perfectly with the rest of MINT’s design, which utilizes organic architecture and natural materials.
MINT will be located within a gated community on the Miami River when it is completed in early-2009. For more information on Fortune International’s green efforts, call 305.377.1002.
Going Green in the Office
When it comes to the “greening” of an office, every little bit helps. Majestic Properties officially launched “Majestic Green Committee” on Earth Day, this past April 22. Dedicated to assisting socially and environmentally responsible ventures in the community, the volunteer group is led by Frances Alban, public relations director, and has a member roster of about 15. Members of the committee include employees out of Majestic’s headquarters in the Design District, Genesys Funding staff and several Majestic agents. All are interested in the cause and in community involvement.
When the committee was launched, members gathered at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne for EarthFest. “We represent the Majestic Properties brand and are excited to be a part of the effort,” says Alban. “We continue to be active by networking with like-minded business professionals and aligning ourselves with relevant activities, efforts and events throughout South Florida.”
And, although the committee’s first few months may have seemed dormant to members, committee leaders have been quite busy making things happen behind the scenes. They have devised internal systems that allow them to operate in a more environmentally responsible manner, and they have attended a several green-themed events.
Following are a few things Majestic has implement in its offices that could work in your office as well:
• No longer uses Styrofoam coffee cups but, instead, uses ceramic mugs purchased for all four Majestic Properties offices
• Implemented a paper recycling program in all offices inclusive of subsidiaries, Genesys and Abode
• Discontinued purchasing canned sodas and bottled waters opting for fountain beverages
• Implemented a magazine recycling program.
Greening an Existing Building
Creating environmentally friendly properties isn’t confined to new construction; going green is possible even with existing buildings and is fast becoming a trend with rehab.
“There are a lot of things you can do that can be incorporated into a rehab,” says architect William Warman of Warman Olsen Warman Ltd., noting that a little goes a long way with clients who have an interest in living or working in an environmentally friendly structure. “And it wins you an advantage with sales. We are seeing some people ask for the greening within the last few years.”
From the sales standpoint, Warman says clients appreciate the effort to green existing properties and it provides added value to a building. He notes that the LEED guidelines provide a number of aspects that aren’t limited to new construction but, rather, can be incorporated into a rehab project as well, such as the green roof his firm is adding to an existing eight-story concrete loft in the city.
LEED for Existing Buildings provides guidelines with scores of information on how older buildings can be brought up to speed with regard to such issues as whole-building cleaning and maintenance including chemical use; ongoing indoor air quality; water and energy efficiency; recycling programs and facilities; exterior maintenance programs; and systems upgrades to meet green building energy, water, indoor air quality and lighting performance standards.
The guidelines are applicable to existing buildings that are seeking LEED Certification for the first time as well as projects previously certified under LEED standards for new construction. The guidelines provide the opportunity for building owners and operators to meet their sustainable operations goals and to reduce the impacts of their buildings on the environment and occupant health over their entire life cycle.
The majority of requirements for LEED for Existing Building certification are operations and maintenance best practices. The process does not necessarily require any major upgrades; instead it promotes using performance records, testing and analysis and tracking resource use.
Many of the requirements can be met at no or low cost by collaborating with service providers and product manufacturers already involved in the rehab project. Most strategies result in a significant reduction in operation costs over the life of the building and pay for themselves many times over. In fact, an initial sampling of existing buildings that have earned LEED certification finds an average return on investment of 2.6 years and an annual net savings of more than $170,000.
“It’s important to start doing something to make the environment better,” says Warman. — K.K. Snyder