New Study Examines Sustainable Planning Issues

A new report issued by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by sustainable development.

Andre Shashaty

San Rafael, Calif.–A new report issued by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by sustainable development.

The report, offered at no charge, is titled “Beyond Green Building: How to Get Deals Done in the New Era of Sustainable Community Development,” and was prepared by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a nonprofit organization that promotes land use reform, including higher density zoning, infill development, and measures to encourage affordable housing.

The study covers topics including how to make sense of the fast growing list of green building certifications and standards; where to find financing for energy retrofits; overcoming community opposition to affordable housing; financing for mixed-use projects and federal projects that promote sustainable development. The study also contains a survey of developers on their land use concerns.

Green development, as well as retrofitting existing properties, presents a host of challenges to multifamily owners and developers, says Andre Shashaty, the organization’s president.

He notes that different organizations, such as the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), have different green building standards for multifamily buildings. Retrofitting existing multifamily properties to be greener can also present challenges.

It can be tough to determine the payback level on green multifamily rehabilitation projects, something Shashaty says his organization is working to provide more data on.

But while he acknowledges these hurdles, he also says various government entities are increasingly mandating that buildings become more energy efficient to combat global warming.  For example, in California, a new law that takes effect this year requires the California Energy Commission to develop and implement a comprehensive program to achieve greater energy savings in existing residential and commercial buildings. The program may include energy audits, energy efficiency improvements, financing options, and green workforce training.  Shashaty also notes that another California law, SB375, which went into effect in 2008, encourages dense, transit-oriented development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But, he is quick to point out that California, while aggressive on this front, is not alone, as 30 other states are actively looking at legislative remedies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Developers need to look ahead, and see where the trends are going,” Shashaty says. He believes that denser, infill development will increasingly become the norm.

“I believe that private lending is going in that direction,” he concludes.

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