Going Green in Real Estate Series: What is Green?

March 30, 2009

Residential

There Are Many Shades of Green

There Are Many Shades of Green

What is Green, exactly? It?s one of those terms that has a connotation, but eludes strict definition because it means something different depending on its context and depending on the goals and motivations of the person using the word. It is not unlike other terms that have a strong connotation but inexact definitions.  Words like, style and cool come to mind.

I?ve been invited by The Chicago 77 to write a series of articles to try to help provide a broader understanding of what it means to be ?green? and how individuals can adopt key principles and practices into their personal and professional lives that can push the green agenda further into the mainstream.  At the end of the series, I am hopeful that readers will be able to identify ways to become more environmentally responsible and realize that going green does not need to be exotic, expensive, or difficult.  Simple changes can have a big impact, especially when the changes are multiplied a thousand or a million times over.

Some Goals of the Green Real Estate Series

Over the next several weeks I will write individual articles focused on ways to go green in the residential and commercial real estate industry from as many perspectives as possible?whether you are an owner, contractor, builder, architect, engineer, broker, or agent, I?m hopeful you will find something useful to implement personally or suggest to a client. The overall goal is to provide readers with some concrete information that you can evaluate for yourself and determine if individual principles, practices, materials, techniques, and technologies are applicable to you, your project, or your client base.

I believe that there is a shade of green for every project and every budget.  The question to be answered by most people is how committed can you be and how far do you want to take it? There are extremes in every pursuit.  But adopting and implementing environmentally preferred practices will have the greatest effect when they reach the broadest market.  Some might find this philosophy too short sighted.  But I believe we will only be able to achieve a sustainable level of acceptance by reaching the broadest audience possible. Small steps first. The rest will come.

How Did I Learn All This Green Stuff?

One of the first questions I get is ?How did you learn all this?? It has been a long road.  To start with, I am a full time, practicing emergency medicine physician.  I became interested in environmentally preferred practices over four years ago when a planned subdivision in my neighborhood lead me to help the City of Waukegan create a master plan for over 1200 acres of land adjacent to the Lake County Forest Preserve.  That plan and the eighteen months of effort lead to a land purchase.  That purchase lead to creating the River Hill Conservation Community, a new conservation community that has at its heart the goal of preserving precious open spaces, restoring natural habitats, and building a benchmark green community that embraces and showcases the best in green materials, products, building practices, and applied technologies. The project?s expressed mission is to demonstrate that advanced building practices that create healthy, efficient, and durable homes can be practically achieved at a reasonable cost to both the builder and the consumer.

This has lead to a far ranging self – education in building science, materials, and renewable energy products as well as available ways to finance these projects when needed.  I am working toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Accredited Professional certification, which I feel will finally provide me with an objective measure of my expertise.  I do no profess to be the final expert in all of these fields and make no promises that everything I write about will be undisputed.  I do promise to be objective and to provide as much verifiable information from reliable sources as I am able so that you can make an informed decision about how you want to implement green practices in your life.

I?ve provided an outline of the article series below.  I certainly welcome any comments or questions, and would take suggestions from the readers on specific topics to cover.   I intend to provide some detail and some perspective on issues relating to the environment, energy efficiency, and the economics of going green.  Expect the series to start next week.  I look forward to helping all of you become Green from the ground up?.

A Guide to The Green Series

Article series (in no particular order of importance and I reserve the right to change to order and topics at my discretion based on feedback from the readers).

  1. Why go Green? Financial motivation or environmental motivation:  A detailed look at the nuts and bolts of major and minor energy efficiency upgrades for homes.  I’ll look at examples of costs, time to recover investment, and the effect specific changes can have on your carbon footprint.
  2. Importance of comprehensive approach to energy efficiency upgrades. A look at the home energy audit and the roadmap it creates for homeowners for 1, 2, 5, and 10 year project horizons.
  3. Making green affordable Financial incentives to help owners go green.  A look at federal, state, and local tax credits and incentives and grant programs, as well as utility sponsored rebates programs. A breakdown of advantages of adding renewable energy to homes.
  4. A Green home as a healthy home Indoor air quality, moisture control, air tightness, temperature comfort, airborn allergens and the effect that they can have on airway irritation (for example, asthma). (For this one, it helps to be a doctor.)
  5. The Green advantage in the marketplace Increased resale value, increased market visibility, truth in advertising — third party certifications and the national green standard.
  6. Putting it all together New construction, major and minor renovations, and affordable housing.
  7. Going Green?builder’s and developer’s perspective
  8. Going Green, not just for residential real estate A look at commercial, industrial, and governmental opportunities for greening America.
  9. Going Green from the ground up? How to include landscape, hardscapes, and open space management in your green updates.  Water conservation, rain harvesting and storage, gray water recycling, zone tolerant plantings, the urban vegetable garden, and organic yard maintenance.
  10. Going green in decorating materials selections, cabinets, counters, flooring, paints, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and more.

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Links to Green Sites

Here are a few web sites to give you a taste of what is already out there.  I?m not the only one trying to broaden the scope and appeal of going green.  I hope to be the best one, though.  Take a look at these mainstream sites:

treehugger.com
greenforall.org
energystar.gov
planetgreen.com
hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/203k/203kabou.cfm

I hope to offer each reader something unique and something tangible.  In the end, we all will benefit from being a little green.

Today’s photo was generously shared by Paul Wicks through the Creative Commons License. Thank you so much.

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About Stuart Feldman

Stuart Feldman, an emergency medicine physician by training, but recently received his LEED AP. He has been working as a green developer for the past four years.

Feel free to contact him through his website www.rivertrailproperties.com. He assists in the design, construction, and materials selection for any project. He is LEED AP certified, and can help get your home LEED rated or EnergyStar® certified, or simply running at peak performance. He has 8 home designs that can be built on most city-sized lots, and he can design homes of any quality and style using his design team. New or renovated home projects can be completed in four months from the time of starting construction. Stuart also is building a conservation community in 2010. The River Hill Conservation Community embraces the best of environmentally responsible design and construction in an innovative and community oriented subdivision in Lake County and will showcase what is possible in the design and construction of truly environmentally responsible homes.

Stuart still works full time in the ER and enjoys time with his 2 young sons and loving wife. In his spare time he enjoys a round of golf, sailing, and dining out. You can contact him at stuartdo@rivertrailproperties.com.

View all posts by Stuart Feldman

One Response to “Going Green in Real Estate Series: What is Green?”

  1. Lisa Gregg Says:

    Can’t wait! I also like this website for living a green lifestyle, http://www.thegreenguide.com.