Ranking green commercial space in the US

February 26, 2008

GreenbuildingsNYC: According to a report that was released last month by the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate at the University of San Diego, Los Angeles is first among U.S. cities when it comes to LEED- or Energy Star-certified commercial office space. The CoStar Group provided the data upon which the report was based and ranked cities by the total amount of their square footage that has earned either the LEED or Energy Star designation; no breakdown appears to be readily available that segregates the figures according to individual rating system.

Los Angeles topped the list with 100 buildings and 26.2 million square feet while Houston checked in at #2 with 46 buildings and 21.1 million square feet. Also in the top five were Washington, D.C. with 61 buildings and 19.8 million square feet, New York City with 11 buildings and 12.3 million square feet, and San Francisco with 30 buildings and 11.9 million square feet. There’s always much more to any set of statistics than initially meets the eye, and the figure that jumps out at us here is the ratio of buildings to square feet. Obviously here in Gotham a fewer overall number of commercial buildings get built to much greater heights and increased density than cities like sprawling Los Angeles or height-capped D.C. Still, it’s interesting to see where the Apple ranks among American cities in terms of sheer square footage, and we’ll be curious to see where Gotham falls on future compilations once projects like 1 Bryant Park (Bank of America), 11 Times Square, and the Greenwich Street towers at the former World Trade Center site are complete.

Early green roof project — the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, 16th century engraving by Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck, Wikimedia Commons


2008 International Builders Show

February 9, 2008

National Association of Homebuilders: Housing professionals from across the country and abroad will convene at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 13-16 for the 2008 International Builders’ Show (IBS), the housing industry’s largest annual trade show and exhibition. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) event, held in one of the largest convention centers in the country, will feature the most cutting-edge designs, technologies, products and services in the industry.

More than 1,900 exhibitors will be on display across more than one million net square feet of exhibit space. Suppliers span more than 300 product categories ranging across every aspect of the residential and light commercial construction fields. [The website lists many dozens of vendors in construction materials, wall and floor products, appliances, as well as other categories. Well worth a look.]

A green realty trust on the horizon

February 8, 2008

Some clever financiers are giving a sustainable twist to venerable financial vehicle. GreenbuildingsNYC describes how a commercial real estate firm is putting together a totally green real estate investment trust. It won’t be traded publicly, but this seems like a promising sign for a sustainable approach to real estate: The prospects for the first completely green Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT, are closer to becoming reality. A well-known pioneer in the commercial real estate industry has registered an offering with the SEC for a REIT called Green Realty Trust, Inc. As reported first by CoStar Group, Rob Hannah, CEO and co-founder of TSG Real Estate, a Chicago firm, has made what appears to be the first foray into an all-green REIT. There are other REITs that have a significant number of green properties in their portfolio, such as Liberty Property Trust (NYSE:LRY), which has 21 green buildings in its portfolio of about 700 properties. There are also several private real estate funds, such as the Rose Smart Growth Investment Fund and the Revival Fund, that have been launched within the last two years whose mission is to invest in either new or existing buildings that meet green criteria.

Green Realty Trust has devised an investment strategy that aims to meet the need of increasing demand by commercial users and tenants for green standards by increasing the supply of green buildings for lease. According to its prospectus, targeted investments include green properties that (1) are certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System; (2) satisfy criteria for energy and environmental design under other established environmental rating systems; or (3) are properties that it intends to develop, re-develop or renovate for subsequent certification as green properties.

The REIT has set up a Green Advisory Council made up of industry experts that will provide analysis on possible acquisitions. According to the CoStar article, Hannah plans to focus the REIT’s acquisition efforts on existing buildings rather than new construction to try and narrow the list of direct competitors. The Rose Smart Growth Fund is also pursuing a green conversion strategy. The CoStar article does a good job of pointing out the challenges involved with focusing on existing buildings by drawing reference to a study by RREEF:

Investors have shied away from large-scale green retrofits partly because many green cost benefits, particularly regarding energy conservation, are measured over 20 or 30 years, far longer than the typical investor’s holding period. And the conversion process is no walk in the park, especially with tenants in place. According to the RREEF report, ‘Many of the points required for [LEED] certification are more easily attained when the building is empty, especially for older buildings. If a building has tenants in place, the renovation costs can pale in comparison to the value of income lost during renovations and the costs incurred to re-lease the space, even if at a higher rent. Tenant lease restrictions may also limit an owner’s ability to relocate tenants to undertake the renovations.’…

Such challenges may actually be a bonus to the Green Realty Trust’s affiliates. According to the prospectus:

We believe that there will be a significant opportunity in our ability to offer services, including design-build through our Green Advisory Council and financing to enable our tenants to achieve tenant-improvement (LEED for Commercial Interiors) certification. For example, we may engage the businesses that members of our Green Advisory Council represent to advise our tenants how to build-out their leased space in environmentally-friendly ways, help finance their green improvements and teach them best practices for incorporating sustainability in their corporate environments. Providing these services to our tenants directly or through our affiliation with Green Advisory Council members will enable us to generate higher rental income from our properties and will provide greater tenant attraction and retention. Green tenant finishes make traditional commercial spaces less of a commodity and more closely identified with the entity that occupies the space….

If you’re in Nottingham — a green buildings exhibition

January 30, 2008

From Energy Daily: The first of six properties designed to show case state-of-the-art energy efficient housing … officially opened on Wednesday January 30 2008 at The University of Nottingham. The house built by BASF, a major supplier of raw materials to the construction industry, is part of the Creative Energy Homes Project on University Park. The project was set up by the School of Built Environment to stimulate sustainable design ideas and promote new ways of providing affordable, environmentally sustainable housing.

Several companies including Stoneguard, Roger Bullivant Ltd, E-on, BASF and Tarmac agreed to fund the project and come up with their own innovative ideas. There are 6 houses in the Creative Energy Homes project. Two additional houses will be built by Tarmac. Four of the new Creative Energy Homes have already been designed. The BASF house is now finished and the Stoneguard house, being constructed by students, is nearing completion…

The website for the exhibition looks worthwhile, too: The project is a showcase of innovative state-of-the-art energy efficient homes of the future. Six homes constructed on the University Park will be designed and constructed to various degrees of innovation and flexibility to allow the testing of different aspects of modern methods of construction (mmc) including layout and form, cladding materials, roof structures, foundations, glazing materials, thermal performance, building services systems, sustainable/ renewable energy technologies, lighting systems, acoustics and water supply. The project aims to stimulate sustainable design ideas and promote new ways of providing affordable, environmentally sustainable housing that are innovative in their design. Several companies including: Stoneguard, Roger Bullivant Ltd, EON, BASF have agreed to fund the project….

Tallahassee Solid Waste Services earns green building label

January 29, 2008

Environment News Service: The City of Tallahassee’s Solid Waste Services Administration building has received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, Silver certification from the United States Green Building Council. It is the second municipal building in Florida and the first in North Florida to earn the distinction.

LEED certification is the points-based benchmark for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. It promotes sustainability by recognizing a building’s performance in five areas – sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

“Earning this award is a true feather in the City’s green cap,” said Mayor John Marks. “We’re not simply saying we want to reduce our carbon footprint, we are doing it. As a whole, our community is making great strides in the right direction, and I’m proud that our local government is leading by example.”

When the city government decided to upgrade the 30 year old Solid Waste Services building to make more space, it made the decision to do so in the most ecologically friendly way possible. The city opted to renovate the existing structure, instead of demolishing it and starting from scratch. Over 75 percent of the debris generated from renovation was salvaged and reused or recycled, keeping it out of the local landfill. The new building boasts new, eco-smart features such as occupancy sensors on lights, programmable thermostats and low-mercury fluorescent lamps….

Photo of the Tallahassee Solid Waste Services building by the City of Tallahassee

Abu Dhabi to build world’s first zero-carbon city

January 22, 2008

Energy Daily, via Agence France-Presse: Construction work on the world’s first zero-carbon city housing 50,000 people in a car-free environment will begin in the oil-rich Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi next month, the developers said on Monday.

In Masdar City, which will be run entirely on renewable energy including solar power to exploit the desert emirate’s near constant supply of sunshine, people will be able to move around in automated pods. “This is a place that has no carbon footprint and will not hurt the planet in any way,” Khaled Awad, director of the Masdar project’s property development unit of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (ADFEC), told AFP.

“At the same time the city will offer the highest quality of life possible for its residents,” he said on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)….

Eco homes: Sun setting on solar power?

January 20, 2008

Why does Britain lag in adopting solar power? The Telegraph comes up with a few reasons: …”The Government is boasting about being green but is doing very little to help homeowners reduce their reliance on fossil fuel.” Research by Labour MP Lynne Jones reveals that until March 21, 2007, 3,988 households had been awarded grants under the Low Carbon Buildings Scheme….