Building High Performance/Green Buildings is Critical to Multifamily Real Estate’s Future

By Adrienne Faulkner, Faulkner Design GroupWhile many real estate professionals are skeptical that going green is the right thing to do—much less that it makes economic sense—it is important that we all commit to it.  Whether you are a lender, investor, developer, architect, contractor or owner, it really does make economic sense that equates to dollars in your pocket.Industry professionals continue to say and believe that it costs more money to go “green” or to get a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for a building or home. While it does take time to do the paperwork and follow the rules, it is a smart financial decision.I recently met with Andrew Padian (formerly of Steve Winters Associates and currently of Community Preservation Corp.), one of the foremost green experts who has been working in the areas of sustainability and durability as a building systems consultant for over 35 years. He explained and demonstrated that building green can sometimes cost a bit more money now, but it saves so much more over the operating lifecycle of the property. If you are a wise investor or owner, that’s smart business. The charts highlight the costs and benefits of the residences at Dulles Station, a 63-acre mixed-use community that is a LEED for Homes pilot project in Washington, D.C. These figures demonstrate a total net value of nearly $3 million to go green.Once we understand that going green doesn’t create an additional financial burden, and that buildings consume 40 percent of the energy, 70 percent of the electricity produced and are responsible for 40 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, we must all contribute to the solution by doing the following:1. Design and build a better building envelope—build tight; ventilate right.2. Size the HVAC to the home or building (math required…do the calculations).3. Reduce avenues for water penetration—bring fewer poisons into the building.4. Specify high-efficiency HVAC systems, appliances and lighting.5. Specify materials with fewer pollutants.6. Reduce water usage in buildings.7. Recycle, re-use and reduce materialsArchitects and builders must include sealing specifications in construction documents. There needs to be air-sealing details for trades, installation guidelines for doors and windows that include air-sealing, guidelines for air-sealing attic and roof cavities, and air-sealing details from floor to floor and in walls. Recently, Faulkner Design Group completed the interior design of Legacy on the Lake (pictured), a 31-story high-rise multifamily project in Austin, Texas for developer Legacy Partners Residential Inc. and EDI Architects. Additionally, we are currently working on the redevelopment of Westminster Manor, an Austin CCRC with Eventus Strategic Partners and Perkins + Will Architects. On both communities, we adhered to the Austin Energy Green Building Program.  Legacy on the Lake was completed in the fall of 2008 and is a LEED registered building. This community is a rental community on Town Lake with incredible views and adjacencies to the lake, as well as parks and jogging trails. Some of the key green accomplishments of the project are:1. 75 percent of construction waste diverted from local landfills2. 100 percent covered parking reduced the heat island effect3. Water efficiencies of 35 percent over base-line calculation4. Climate appropriate plantings5. Exceeded local energy codes by 35 percent6. 30 percent regionally harvested and manufactured materials used.On Westminster Manor, expansion construction started at the end of January 2009. For this project, we are obtaining a two-star rating, which is equivalent to a LEED Silver certification. Perkins + Will included all the sealing details, installation guidelines and trade instructions in their set of construction documents and hired a building envelope consultant to examine all their drawings to make sure that details documented called for building “right and tight.” Some of the items we are implementing are:  1.    Low-VOC paints, sealants, carpets, and other materials. The owner has also committed to a “green” cleaning program2.    Energy recovery HVAC systems3.    Fluorescent lighting throughout common areas and units4.    Occupancy sensors5.    Natural day-lighting in 75 percent of spaces 6.    Energy Star appliances, including washers and dryers7.    Local sources for building materials, such as exterior stone and cabinets8.    Recycling of construction waste.This green building “trend” is here to stay. Implementing the items noted will make you money. And for those of you who are socially aware, building high-performance buildings is the right thing to do. Owners can greatly reduce operating costs and increase air quality, thereby increasing occupant productivity and decreasing resident complaints. This also lowers energy consumption and demonstrates that you are environmentally responsible. Not only are these facts true and critical for all residential and commercial buildings, but this is our future. The time to act is now!Adrienne Faulkner is president and CEO of Faulkner Design Group, a fully integrated interior and architectural design firm based in Dallas