Herndon, Va.—Luxury apartment developer JPI has committed to create some of the first apartments designed to meet exacting new standards for energy efficiency and healthy living.
“Not only is it something good to do, we will also be a market leader,” said Greg Lamb, executive vice president and regional managing partner for the Irving, Texas-based company.
In June, workers will start construction on 448 mid-rise apartments at Jefferson at Dulles Station under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes program finalized in November by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Nearly all apartments built to LEED standards have been high-rise towers or high-density mid-rise buildings. That’s because the main LEED certification program, LEED for New Construction, was originally designed around the needs of office buildings. For example, LEED for New Construction requires developers to hire an independent green building expert to check on the machinery, like energy co-generation plants and water reclamation systems, used at many green high-rise projects.
The two wood-frame buildings at Dulles Station will be four to five stories tall, with 28,600 square feet of retail on the first floors. To meet the LEED standards, the development will have to meet federal Energy Star requirements in addition to high standards for air quality and the conservation of resources like building materials.
JPI signed on to use LEED for Homes while the standard was still a pilot program. It wanted to get ahead of competing apartment developers and start building green while it still had a choice.
“There is a lot of political pressure in many of our jurisdictions,” said Lamb. “Within five years, [green building] is going to be a requirement.”
JPI also had strong economic reasons to go green, said Lamb, despite the extra cost of the construction methods. Subcontractors are bidding 2 percent to 5 percent more for their services to build Dulles Station, Lamb said. That will push the project’s development cost up by the same percentage to $118 million. But JPI expects to more than make up for the extra expense.
Last summer, JPI hired an independent company to survey hundreds of potential renters in that market. The results found a clear preference for green apartments over conventional construction. That will add at least “a couple cents per square foot” to rents at Dulles Station, said Lamb. JPI anticipates rents of $1.75 per square foot at the suburban development.
JPI also expects to save money on the operating costs at Dulles Station. Utility expenses are expected to be 30 percent lower than the costs at comparable developments, said Lamb.
The development also is likely to be cheaper to maintain, because the materials chosen for green-built projects are often higher quality than conventional building codes require.
JPI’s plan to win LEED certification is also helping the developer close its financing for the complex. “Investors and lenders of institutional quality are very interested when we advise them that this is a LEED building,” said Lamb.