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It's Becoming Easier To Be Green

Apr 6, 2008
The green building trend in construction grew out of a concern for the environment and as an effort to reduce the negative impact of everything from carbon emissions to conserving natural resources. Southern California was where the first green buildings sprouted up, and it spread east from there. The U.S. Green Building Council, which is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1993, works to encourage developers to build homes and high-rises that use more recycled materials, low VOC paints and carpets, and generally improve both the environment as well as create more healthy living conditions for residents.

The group began a rating system in 2000 called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED that would set a sort of standard rule of measurement for green construction. The system rates a building or project on a number of different areas and awards rakings according to how well the project or building meets those requirements. Some of the areas covered include how the parcel of land was used in it's best interests, building and interior materials used, energy efficiency, water efficiency and indoor living quality. From those evaluations, the group will then award an LEED Certification of Silver, Gold or Platinum.
There are a number of cities, including Chicago, that now require all public buildings to be LEED Certified.

But does a LEED ranking really mean that building, house or condo you are buying into is really doing that much to help the environment? Some say yes because even a small reduction in waste is an improvement over none at all. Others, including architects who promote green building practices, are more critical. They see it as more of a marketing tool that some developers will use to entice buyers who believe they are doing their part to help prevent global warming and save the environment. But who is right?

The answer to that is probably as complicated as the whole issue and debate of global warming in the first place. If a company receives a Silver LEED ranking for its office building as a good public relations move and then builds manufacturing plants with high rates of emissions, then the benefit is probably negligible. But if a developer creates a green project, such as http://www.bestchicagocondos.com/pre-construction-condos/eco18.html for example, then the LEED system has done its job. Eco18 will have the title of first residential building to use the largest geothermal energy system in Chicago. The 12 story, 93 unit tower will have piping that drills down 450 feet into the ground to supply energy efficient heating and cooling at a reduction of 40 percent less in cost per year. The building will also have a solar hot water heating system.

Other developments in Chicago are implementing green design features such as bamboo flooring, recycled materials, low E insulated glass, Energy Star appliances, low flow toilets and faucets and low VOC materials. One development is planning on using roof-mounted wind turbines for electricity. Then there is the green roof, which in itself is a large factor. Green roof tops last longer, help with rain water run off, the landscaping absorbs CO2 and it helps to reduce the island heating effect of high-rises.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Chicago receives as much viable sunlight as Los Angeles or Atlanta and could create enough solar energy to power at least 70 percent of the average heating and hot water needs. So developments and homes that feature solar energy are certainly attractive to buyers. Kitchens are also another selling point for buyers, and the energy efficient appliances are a top priority.

Homes that utilize energy saving features can also save not only the environment, but money as well. The debate is how long it will take a buyer to recoup the sometimes higher purchase price and begin to see those savings. Building green adds an average cost increase of 1 to 3 percent overall to the price. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders showed that 51 percent of buyers would be willing to pay an extra $5,000 to $11,000 in price for an annual savings of $1,000 on their utility bills. Depending on the number of green features and energy saving improvements on a condo or house, it could take anywhere from 10 to 15 years to recoup that investment, but the savings would continue long after that.
About the Author
You can read more Chicago real estate development articles from Paula Cherrist by visiting Downtown Chicago Condos
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