In 2008, Houston-based apartment and student housing developer the Dinerstein Cos. adopted the LEED green building standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council for all of its projects moving forward. That may have been the easy part. LEED certification involves in-depth and often time consuming audits of construction products and processes, and Dinerstein is currently shooting to complete certification on four properties simultaneously. “I can’t believe we’re doing that much development to begin with,” says company partner Brian Dinerstein. “With everything that has happened over the past couple of years, you have to question every assumption that you’ve had about development, and out of everything we’ve done, the one area that I can point to that I have more conviction on that I’ve ever had is building green.”
Aiming for LEED Silver and LEED Gold designations, the four properties in the certification process are all currently pre-leasing. They include: Sterling Collwood, a 264-unit student housing community near San Diego State University (applying for LEED Gold); the Millennium Warner Center, a four-story, 438-unit apartment community in Woodland Hills, Calif. (applying for LEED Silver); the Millennium Waterway Ave. in Texas (applying for LEED Silver); and Sterling Central at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, which will be the state’s first student housing community to seek LEED Silver certification.
Dinerstein attributes much of the company’s traction on building to LEED standards to the company’s decision to hire full-time sustainable design manager and LEED accredited professional Don Brooks, who heads up Dinerstein’s green effort, including bringing buildings through the certification process.
“If we were only doing one job, we probably couldn’t afford to dedicate one person solely to that role,” Dinerstein says. “It’s only when you have a critical mass of development that that part makes sense.”
Should they gain LEED certification, Brooks says the four Dinerstein developments will represent green firsts in each of their submarkets. “We believe Sterling Collwood is the first privately-funded, off-campus student housing apartment project to seek LEED Gold certification, and it is certainly among the greenest student housing projects in the nation,” Brooks says. “The Millennium Warner Center is one of the largest green luxury apartment projects in California seeking LEED Silver certification and will be the first LEED Silver-certified luxury apartments in the San Fernando Valley.”
Dinerstein says the current four-property certification process will help the company keep close tabs on differences in demand for green product in the student versus conventional markets and in comparatively different regional markets such as Texas and California.
“Regardless of market, we think it is going to help on operations, we think it is going to help on marketing, we think our residents will be more excited to live there and tell their friends, and ultimately we think it is going to be attractive to the investment community as well,” he says.