Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Going Green: Downtowns around the Country Are Seeing Old and New Buildings Incorporate Environmentally Friendly Building Technology. the Economics Are Smart, and So Are the Aesthetics

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Going Green: Downtowns around the Country Are Seeing Old and New Buildings Incorporate Environmentally Friendly Building Technology. the Economics Are Smart, and So Are the Aesthetics

Article excerpt

Many of the nation's downtowns are upgrading drab concrete canyons with "green" projects of all types designed to conserve energy, reduce pollution and sustain the natural environment.

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Aesthetics aside, urban planners, developers and owners are finding that going green makes dollars and cents by increasing the appeal and competitiveness of properties and improving the bottom line. Industry sources say green buildings can serve as a magnet for attracting new businesses as well as new residents to downtowns.

The green movement is "on the crest of a tidal wave," says George Denise, general manager for New York-based Cushman & Wakefield Inc. on location at Adobe Systems Inc., a model green-building project located in downtown San Jose, California. The Adobe Systems' project consists of a 1-million-square-foot, three-building office complex.

Denise says the green movement is a wide-ranging initiative involving both public and private sectors to promote cleaner air, less traffic congestion and more efficient use of resources, including energy, water and waste management. "It's about costs; it's about health; and it's about sustainability," he adds.

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Gaining competitive advantage

David Feehan, president of the Washington, D.C.-based International Downtown Association, says downtowns have a big stake in encouraging green projects.

He comments, "Building green or retrofitting older buildings to green standards enables downtowns to stay ahead of the energy curve and remain more competitive in the race to attract new business."

Feehan says there's nothing new about the idea of greening up. "The green movement started as far back as the 1970s, when there was a lot of energy consciousness. However, interest waned in the 1980s going into the 1990s. Now there's a strong revival of interest for a very practical reason: Corporations are realizing that global warming is a threat to business success," he says.

One of the major priorities of green development activity is constructing new buildings and retrofitting older ones to green standards. Green construction is a meticulous process requiring an integrated design approach that looks at all components of the project.

Advocates say sustainable (green) buildings are more efficient and cost-effective in the use of building resources; provide significant operational and energy savings; increase employee productivity; foster less absenteeism; and reduce the impact from storm-water runoff and pollution.

From a developer's standpoint, costs are always an important issue. Recent analysis of existing green buildings shows that the upfront costs of building green range from o percent to 5 percent of total construction cost, but these costs are recouped through reduced operational costs over the life of the building--often within the first few years of operation, according to the Arlington County, Virginia, Department of Environmental Services in its 2007 Building Green, Building Smart brochure.

One of the main goals of a green-building project is to reduce the 30 percent energy-consumption bill, representing a typical office building's largest single operating expense, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) sets the standards for green buildings. It developed a green-building rating system in 2000 called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED[R]), to achieve market transformation.

LEED is a self-certifying system designed for rating new and existing developments. Different levels of green-building certification are awarded based on the total credits earned in each of several categories, including site, energy, material resources, indoor environmental quality (promoting good indoor air quality through such means as increasing ventilation and eliminating sources of indoor pollution) and water. …

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