LOS ANGELES, CA - Kermit the Frog was wrong. It really is easy to be green! But it’s important to first understand what being “green” really means.
Most people think of energy efficiency, recycling and drought-tolerant landscaping and believe that LEED Certification, or one of the other rating systems, is the stamp of approval for inclusion of all of those things and more. But, you may not realize that you can be certified without doing any of those things. In California, if you just meet the minimum building code requirements and go through the cost of having a third-party verification, nearly every single new development could be LEED Certified.
Probably the most important step to getting certified is first selecting a site that meets all of the prerequisites of the rating system, but more importantly, this can put you well on your way to getting to one of the higher rating levels.
Primera Terra and Skylar’s location in Playa Vista in Los Angeles County helped the builder, KB Home, achieve a LEED Platinum rating, the highest rating the USGBC has. But even more than that, Primera Terra was named the 2011 LEED for Homes Multifamily Project of the Year and Skylar achieved an astounding 95 points when all that is needed for Platinum is 80.
It takes an experienced design team who understands sustainability and a developer who embraces it like KB. The development and design team also has to be willing to control their construction waste and monitor the carbon footprint of the materials they use, both in the manufacturing and delivery of the products, along with numerous other things.
The first ABC Green Home was designed to demonstrate how the homebuilding industry could build a single-family home that was “Affordable, Buildable and Certifiable”… ABC. The design began with some low-tech ideas like simply using 2x6 studs in the exterior walls. By going to 24” spacing, eliminating the double plate and using drywall clips at the corners, we were able to double the insulation value of the exterior walls while at the same time actually using less wood product than conventional 2x4 construction. That’s just one example of how you can be green and a big part of what allowed the ABC Green Home to attain the highest certification from all six major rating services.
There’s a bit of a difference between what the value of being certified or green means between a rental property and one that’s for sale. The energy and water efficiency mean a lot more to a buyer than a renter. In fact, I believe that a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index is more import there than any LEED or other certification. It’s like looking at the window sticker on a car and knowing what your expected gas mileage will be.
On the rental side, many equity investors, especially the Dutch and Chinese, require LEED Certification; however, my feeling is that the renter really doesn’t care about certifications. If there are two competing properties with similar rents and amenities, then certification may be a differentiator.
One final thought I would like to leave with you is how you can make those Millennials buy into being green. Almost every one of them grew up with a PlayStation, Wii or some other gaming platform, so what you need to do is make energy conservation a video game! In the property lobby you need to place a dedicated video monitor that displays the consumption of electricity, gas and water, or whichever of those you have and can monitor, but in this case low score wins. You would be amazed how green these Super Mario and World of Warcraft veterans can be!
Article By: Manny Gonzalez, FAIA, LEED AP and principal is the senior partner with international award-winning KTGY Architecture + Planning. He is based in Los Angeles and can be reached at (310) 394-2623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.