Have you been reluctant to jump on the green bandwagon? Well, in 2008, you just might have to get on board—whether you want to or not. An increasing number of municipalities and public agencies not only offer incentives you can't afford to resist, but many will also begin enforcing green building standards.

Consider this: A new ordinance in Los Angeles, slated to become effective in July 2008, will require all new residential projects at or above 50,000 square feet, or 50 units, to be built with the intent of earning certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Excellence in Design) program. Additionally, projects that are expected to receive a LEED Silver rating or better will receive expedited entitlement perks.

“That is a really big incentive, [especially] coupled with a financial incentive program the L.A. Department of Water and Power already offers,” says Greg Reitz, principal of the L.A.-based real estate development firm REthink Development. “It's going to push a lot of people toward green building practices.”

Indeed, green design will have a big effect on the multifamily industry in 2008—though not as substantial an impact as larger economic issues such as the credit crunch, according to the results of the 2008 Strategies Survey. Still, industry executives predict that more developers will think green as eco-conscious building becomes about more than saving a few bucks. “In my mind, the equation has changed,” says Richard M. Cherry, president and CEO of Community Environmental Center, a nonprofit organization that provides energy and building performance services to New York communities. “Green is not just a question of cost effectiveness; it has become a society mandate. We have to stop greenhouse gases.”

LEED is expected to continue its reign as the dominant green building rating system, especially as the Green Building Council strengthens its green offerings, Reitz says. LEED for Homes is on schedule to transition from pilot phase to general release by the end of this year; meanwhile, the recently launched LEED-Neighborhood Development pilot program is expected to gain major traction next year.

Cutting-edge companies, however, are working toward the ultimate green building—one that contributes to the environment more than it takes away. That's admirable, considering that of the total energy generated in the industrialized world, approximately 40 percent is used in the construction and operation of residential, public, and commercial buildings.

Portland, Ore.-based Gerding Edlen Development is close. The firm plans to build a net zero energy use building within five years. “We want to keep pushing the envelope,” says principal Tom Cody. “The building will create its own power by solar or wind, feed power back to the grid, and treat all of its own stormwater, including graywater, onsite.” Now that's a New Year's resolution.


Talking Back

Greg Reitz, principal, REthink Development
Q: What do you predict to be one of the hottest green amenities of '08?
A: “Green roofs. There are multiple benefits to having a green roof; they are an amenity, and they improve the energy efficiency of the building by providing more insulation and a cooler roof, mitigating stormwater runoff, and cleaning the air. The investment can really pay off if done right. We will be doing green roofs in a lot of our projects.”

Source: MFE/Specpan