There is a green controversy brewing in Berkeley, California. Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corp and an international philanthropist, wants to build a 10,000-square-foot house complete with a 10-car garage. Under Berkeley’s current green point system the house would qualify for Berkeley’s “green” designation despite its size, and that has neighbors and local environmentalists upset.
According to the New York Times: Berkeley’s green point system was developed by a nonprofit group called Built It Green and adopted by the city government. Items on the checklist include: tightly seal the air barrier between the garage and living area; insulate hot water pipes; use Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood; use paint low in volatile organic compounds. About 70 local governments in California have ordinances based on the Build It Green checklist, according to Bruce Mast, an executive of the organization.
The article also correctly notes that the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program does reduce points for larger than average homes. Those points must then be regained with additional “green” features and building practices in order to achieve a LEED designation.
While virtually everyone agrees that smaller footprint homes are better for our environment, not everyone is going to give up their large luxury homes – nor do I think they should have to. Those who can afford to build a luxury home are also the people who can best afford to include cutting edge “green” materials and techniques, which will in turn benefit all green building at all price levels. We should continue to encourage this type of “green” investment with a sensible point system like the LEED program that addresses the size of the home as well as the sustainability of its design.
Neighbors Susan and Chuck Fadley were quoted in the article as saying that “green building begins with using ‘just enough’ and preserving what already exists. Clearly the idea of ‘just enough’ is not part of the design concept.” And as an ideal, I agree. But in our idealism, we must not make this or any aspect of sustainable living seem so austere that its achievement feels like a punishment. A luxury home that is also a genuinely “green” home should be showcased because it allows the general public to see that “green building” doesn’t just mean living in a yurt anymore.
As a member of the US Green Building Council and one of the few designated Eco-Brokers in the South Florida area, I have been an advocate for “green building” for many years. And while I wear my “tree-hugger” label proudly, for most of us our first priorities when buying a home or leasing an office space are cost and comfort. For too many years, “green building” was viewed as an expensive, slightly quirky, niche market. I am glad to see the growing awareness that green saves green.
Increasingly, green building practices are associated with cutting energy costs and saving money, and a growing number of home buyers are looking for these features. According to the 2010 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Profile, 88 percent of recent home buyers considered a home’s heating and cooling costs important in their home search. “Many of today’s consumers want homes and communities that are sensitive to the larger environment, but in today’s economy, they’re also cost-conscious, and energy-efficient home features appeal to these buyers,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. “As green building issues become more important to buyers, sellers and businesses, more and more Realtors® are bringing value to the real estate transaction by developing green business practices.”
The US Green Building Council’s South Florida Chapter Emerging Professionals will be participating in this Friday’s “Park(ing) Day,” a worldwide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks. Started in 2005, Park(ing) Day is a way to draw attention to the need for more public parks in urban areas. This year’s local event is scheduled to take place between 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. along McFarlane Road in Coconut Grove. Donations and support will be provided by Pie Studio, Home Depot, AFH, the City of Miami, Coconut Grove community organizers, the NET, the BID and the Miami Parking Authority. The MPA has designated 10 metered parking spaces along McFarlane Road which will be transformed into temporary urban parks for the day. Commissioners Sarnoff and Suarez are scheduled to appear, and the public is invited to attend.
USGBC Emerging Professionals “are the energetic and dynamic leaders of tomorrow’s green building movement. The program is geared toward individuals out of school and under 30, but does not exclude anyone who may be interested. USGBC Emerging Professionals seek to engage all those who are interested in learning about and advocating for sustainable building practices. So who are Emerging Professionals? Certainly many are young architects and engineers, but they also include young lawyers, education and healthcare professionals, sustainability consultants, and anyone else interested in the future of green building.”
Every month I look forward to reading Sebastian Eilert’s newletter to keep up to date on his latest LEED projects in South Florida. Sebastian, a local architect with international training and experience, is dedicated to sustainable architecture. From his website:
With S.E.A. as part of your project team, spaces will be better, healthier and have economic saving, in energy, water, and resources, which also reduce the burden on this planet. S.E.A. helps to set yourself apart as a leader in your community and to know that you are doing the right thing!
And this month from his newsletter:
Eurohabitat “Living Tetris” project has gone through some changes since its first submittal for permit and is ready to move forward. The now smaller house still features cutting edge design including a unique custom pool and native as well as regionally appropriate landscaping designed by Southern Blossoms. Some of the more hidden features include a manifold plumbing system, high efficient water fixtures and appliances and LED lighting. The house is PV ready. The team and the Village are excited to see the first LEED certified home for the Village of Pinecrest start construction soon.
Nearing construction completion is the Glantz remodel at The Balmoral in Bal Harbour. The renovation of a spectacular corner unit added a bedroom and updated the kitchen and master suite. Lookout for a picture of the month from this amazing project in a future newsletter.
The GSA Trades Shop Facility, the first LEED Silver certified project for Miami Dade County. We are eagerly awaiting comments from the USGBC.
Design on the Pinecrest Gardens lower Bathroom project has been completed and SEA has moved to the construction document phase detailing the structure and the water filter system that will be installed instead of traditional sewer system.
SEA is proud to team up with New Orleans based FuturProof. The LEED H M+M LEED Homes residence by Upstairs Studio in Coconut Grove has been awarded the AIA award and is already a Energy Star home. The LEED certification is eagerly awaited by the team.
April is Water Conservation Month in Florida and Miami-Dade County wants you to “Get Your Green On!” The contest is open to all Miami-Dade County high school students. Create an original Public Service Announcement showcasing environmentally sustainable activities and your commercial could air at movie theaters across the County.
Every student who enters will receive a free “Use Less” T-shirt and the winning entry will be played in movie theaters across the county. Videos should be 24 seconds in length and feature only original material. Topics and ideas for your video can be found at green.miamidade.gov. All videos will be posted on YouTube for a one week period from noon on May 10th to noon on May 17th. During this period, the top ten videos with the most views will go on to be judged by the panel. After review of the videos, the winner will be announced. From Miami-Dade County:
All entries must be submitted no later than April 30, 2010. Visit MiamiDade.gov for entry forms and details.
The judging panel will consist of three members, with a mixture of professionals with backgrounds in sustainable living, design and/or television production. The judges will meet for a one day period to review the entries. Using the Video Judging Form, each judge will evaluate the posters on the following criteria:
Sustainable Living Message (50 points) – Does the video convey the theme’s message clearly and link to the sustainable living subject?
Visual Effectiveness (30 points) – How does the video relay the message and does it require you to take action? Will you remember the video next year? Is it creative?
Universal Appeal (10 points) – Regardless of age, language or educational level, everyone should be able to understand the message. Does it appeal to the general population or a large audience?
Originality (10 points) – Artistic Expression.
Come on Miami… Get Your Green On!
Melanie Dawn Molina Wood, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate LLC, is a member of the US Green Building Council – South Florida Chapter and a designated Eco-Broker. She also holds her level one Green Leadership (GCREP-GL) certificate among many other certifications and awards. For more information about Miami real estate, call/text Melanie Dawn at 305-801-3133 or visit her website at http://www.melaniedawn.net/.