While the residential construction industry has been deeply hit by the lingering recession, the desire for green building seems to be holding on. This may be driven in part by a renewed national push for energy efficiency as well as the public’s continued (and increasing) desire to live in green housing.
In McGraw-Hill Construction’s "Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth" the company says the current value of green building construction is valued at $71 billion and accounts for 25 percent of all construction in 2010. Green building back in 2008 was valued at $42 billion, and is projected to be worth $135 billion by 2015. For residential construction, McGraw-Hill Construction forecasted in its 2009 report that by 2013, about 15% of residential projects will be identified as “green.” At O'Brien & Company, green multi-family new construction appears to be holding on better than single family new construction.
One major reason is a new Rating System in the green certification field: the LEED for Homes MidRise Certification. This is applicable for projects of 4-6 stories. This Rating System grew out of the established LEED for Homes single family/low rise certification, and the desire of project teams to have a process that worked better for midrise housing than the LEED NC certification. We have nine new apartment building projects pursuing LEED Homes Midrise Certification here in Seattle and another in central Washington, with several more in development. Runberg Architecture is the firm leading several of the Seattle projects. One of the drivers for pursuing LEED Certification for these projects is the owner/developer’s desire for market differentiation in what is expected to be a competitive rental market.
Market-rate developers planning to hold property for the long-term also find value in the “green” attributes of quality, efficiency and durability. Several high profile condominium buildings in our region have converted to apartments to accommodate a changing business environment. One example is the Aspira apartment building in Seattle, designed by LMN Architects and constructed by Turner Construction. With a highly efficient centralized heating and cooling system, reduced construction waste, and green interior materials and appliances, this was the first high rise residential building in Washington State to achieve 4-Star Certification in the local Built Green program.
Another sector of the multi-family market that is moving forward is affordable housing. Many housing authorities are required to use some type of green building standard due to their funding requirements. Here in Washington State, state funded projects must follow The Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard. Lower monthly operating costs are paramount in affordable housing settings, and green building methods often lead to improved energy efficiency and savings. While this sector has taken a hit with recent budget cuts both regionally and nationally, many are continuing to build on a smaller scale. One example is Tacoma Housing Authority’s Salishan development. This development has already won numerous sustainable awards, but the standard for housing has continued to improve with the market during this project’s 9 year history. This final phase, designed by Torti Gallas and Partners and McGranahan Architects and constructed by Walsh Construction, has achieved LEED for Homes Platinum Certification and certification in the local Built Green program.
The reality is that multifamily developers are following the money (whether derived from the market, non-profit funding, or operational savings), and the money seems to be leading them to better buildings — and that's a good thing for the whole community.
Colleen Groll, CSBA, LEED AP for Homes, and Energy Star Verifier and Performance Tester provides technical assistance and consulting to O'Brien & Company's residential construction and renovation projects. Salishan photo provided by Walsh Construction. Aspira photo provided by Turner Construction.
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