Tag Archives: U.S. Green Building Council


Arizona becomes a top state for green building

Arizona real estate is LEED-ing the way, breaking into the Top 10 in the nation for the most projects per capita certified LEED for its green building initiative.

LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program where projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), created to promote sustainability in the construction industry, established LEED to exhibit projects notable for high environmental and health achievements.

Fifteen new LEED certifications, combining for a total of 2,810,153 square feet of space, have been LEED certified in Arizona since the beginning of 2015, says Aline Peterson, a spokeswoman for USGBC.

The Arizona chapter of USGBC opened in 2002 and its founder Charlie Popeck, currently president of Green Ideas Sustainability Consultants, says “it has been refreshing to see more people are getting into (green building).”

Public developers have been among the leaders pioneering LEED building.

“Believe it or not, they are spending our tax dollars wisely,” Popeck says. Some higher education establishments, municipalities and the federal government have established minimum LEED certification requirements.

Public developers have a greater awareness about the importance of life cycle costs, says Bryan Dunn, market sector executive at Kitchell. The evaluation of a 30-year life cycle of a building shows 2 percent of the overall cost is attributed to construction, 6 percent for operations and maintenance and the remaining 92 percent is attributed to personnel cost, Dunn says. Many experts agree LEED buildings increase workplace productivity and engagement and, according to Dunn, “municipalities understand the importance of this and are willing to make the investments in their human capital.”

Some private developers are skeptical of green building because they do not feel they have the luxury or incentive to build green. However, a variety of tax benefits and incentives are available for green buildings, according to the USGBC. Examples of these incentives include tax credits, grants, expedited building permits and reductions or waivers in fees.

LEED-certified buildings use 25 percent less energy and have a 19 percent reduction in aggregate operational costs compared to non-certified buildings, per the USGBC.

“The struggle with LEED is it takes a lot of moving parts coming together to make a LEED project work,” says Thomas Cochran, the regional manager at Energy Inspectors Inc. It forces people to get together earlier in the design phase and may be a shift in process from developers.

The “sexy thing” right now is energy efficiency, Popeck says, and green building will pay off in the long run.

Education and the expulsion of the “myth” that LEED building is expensive will increase private sector activity, says Dale Benz, director of facilities consulting at FM Solutions. LEED for the private sector “boils down to the bottom line,” Benz says. With a good practical design and operation, you can get a silver certification with minimal or no additional cost, experts say.

“Most developers tell me they don’t want to pay the money for a plaque,” Dunn says. Their mindset can change if a market demands green building and developers can generate higher rents, maintain higher occupancy and lower operational cost, he says.

“There are a  lot of stakeholders concerned about sustainability throughout Arizona,” says Lisa Estrada, board member for the Arizona chapter of the USGBC. “To get more on board, we just need to promote it and education people about its value.”

The continuation of the verification of the value of LEED building will cause the demand for LEED buildings to increase over time, according to experts. If a dollar amount can be attached to energy savers and sustainability, stakeholders will be able to see the value, Cochran says.

Getting more appraisers certified to validate energy and solar features on projects will help, Cochran says. “The key is to get all the players the industry to identify the value,” he says.

Trilogy at Vistancia, solar homes - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2011

New Master Planned Communities Seek To Bring Back Customers

With the residential market suffering through the Tepid Economic Recovery, homebuilders are devising ways to bring customers back to their new Master Planned Communities. These days, the magic word Is “Green,” as in sustainable. But it also represents energy and money savings for homebuyers.

In the Valley, Shea Homes launched its green initiative (Shea Green Certified) in the fall of 2007. Trilogy homes at Vistancia (601 sold to date) and Encanterra (285 sold) are built according to those standards, which means all homes come standard with more than 20 green energy and cost saving features. American Solar Electric, Arizona’s largest residential solar integrator, has partnered with Trilogy to provide solar roof tiles to all its homes that are built with the Shea Green Certified — Ultra Package.

Meritage Homes is selling residences at two of its communities — Lyon’s Gate in Gilbert and Weston Ranch in Glendale — that include a high-tech package of sustainable features included in the base price of the home.  The future of new homebuilding, with respect to energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainability and green building practices, appears to be a national trend, and even more so in Metro Phoenix.

“In addition to Meritage Homes, Joseph Carl Homes has really distinguished itself with its green and solar features being offered at the CantaMia development in Goodyear,” says Dustin C. Jones, a Phoenix lawyer who publishes the Livability Law Blog. “It has seen a record number of individuals visit the active adult community since its grand opening. I believe that local homebuilders are seeing the need to distinguish themselves from the glut of foreclosed homes in the market and ‘greening up’ is one way to do so.”

Some of Meritage’s features include ECHO Solar Electric/Thermal Systems, spray foam insulation, super high-performance windows, energy-efficient lighting, weather-sensing irrigation, high-performance plumbing fixtures, and a 14 Seer air conditioning unit. All of these features are included in homes from about 1,640 square feet to 3,062 square feet and starting in the $170,000s.

“We spent the last two years working with the EPA, DOA (Department of Agriculture), and building science experts to revolutionize the functionality of a home, while maintaining its price competitiveness,” says C.R. Herro, vice president of environmental affairs for Meritage Homes. “But at the same time, ‘green’ has become a marketing gimmick for everything from soap to homes; that has confused and jaded a lot of consumers. The real work is in allowing consumers to make a more informed decision.”

With the move to green master planned communities, homebuilders and homebuyers both benefit from cost savings. Some homebuilders, such as Arizona-based Robson Communities, are partnering with companies that produce energy-saving products.

Robson also has partnered with American Solar to offer solar electric systems at two of its popular active adult communities, Pebble Creek in Goodyear and Quail Creek in Sahuarita. New homebuyers are also able to select either a 2.5- or 4-kilowatt grid-connected solar electric system at the time they purchase their homes. These systems save $600 and $950 a year, respectively.

“Building green master planned communities is a win-win for everyone,” Jones says. “Not only does the consumer benefit, but the community as a whole. Oftentimes, one can lose sight of the greater good by building sustainable master planned communities.

“This is why the U.S. Green Building Council launched its LEED-Neighborhood Development (ND) designation for such communities. It is important to look at the overall benefit to a community, rather than just doing a zero-sum analysis between builder and homeowner.”
In a special report, “A Green Recovery for America’s Homebuilders?”, Calvert Investments, which advocates for sustainable and responsible investing, updated its 2008 Green Homebuilder rankings based on the environmental and sustainability practices of America’s 10 largest publicly traded homebuilders.

While all 10 have improved their policies and practices relating to the environment and resources, much progress remains to be achieved, according to the report. The homebuilding industry was one of the earliest and most visibly affected segments of the U.S. economy during the recent financial crisis. While new residential building projects are only a quarter of what they were five years ago, the trend in the first half of 2010 is moving upward.  Green building, which is gaining momentum, offers an opportunity to the industry as it focuses on rebuilding its market and restoring financial profitability. Estimated at $36 billion to $49 billion, the green building market is considerable and expected to double by 2013.

In the green building market there is likely a first-mover advantage: companies that make a concerted national effort to integrate sustainability into project siting, construction materials, and construction processes, as well as provide energy, water, and habitat conservation options in new homes will be able to build a brand image as the environmental choice for home construction.

“New green residential construction is much more viable financially (than retro-fitting existing homes),” says Robson Communities spokesman Ross Novotny. “Being able to offer green features to new homeowners allows for costs to be wrapped into a mortgage and is more resource efficient, because older, less efficient products do not need to be discarded in the process.”

The government’s role in the move to more green master planned communities is crucial, experts say. The Obama administration has been supportive of domestically produced energy through tax credits and research money for advancements in green industries.

“An upcoming trend in new home construction may tie in the introduction of electric cars into the mainstream market and installing a solar system on each new home, which can serve as the at-home ‘fuel station’ for the next generation of homeowners,” says American Solar spokesman Matt Neils.
Adds Jones, “The most significant thing that the Obama administration has done to promote green master planned communities is announce the Partnership for Sustainable Housing and Communities, which includes the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Prior to the partnership, these federal agencies operated as silos, in isolation from one another,” Jones continues. “The Obama administration’s appointees recognized that from a sustainability perspective, these departments were inextricably linked. The three departments came together and the Six Livability Principles were announced.

Adds Herro of Meritage Homes: “We couldn’t have achieved this unprecedented accomplishment in energy efficient and sustainable communities without significant partnerships with the EPA, utilities, municipalities, suppliers and trades.”

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2011

Arizona Game & Fish Headquarters, Platinum Project

Latest Platinum Project In Arizona

Green Ideas Environmental Building Consultants announced their fourth Platinum LEED-certification – the highest available – for the Arizona Game & Fish Headquarters Building in Phoenix. Only three other Arizona facilities have received this prestigious recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council: the Arizona State University Biodesign Building B in Tempe; the Northern Arizona University Applied Research and Development facility in Flagstaff; and the Lee H. Brown Conservation Learning Center in Tucson.

“This milestone project is a significant accomplishment and we are extremely proud of the marked success for the state of Arizona and the Game & Fish Department,” says Charlie Popeck, president of Green Ideas.

The Game & Fish facility was designed as a full-service center to support research operations, vehicle maintenance, database management, public assemblies, educational instruction, department administration and customer service. The result is a state-of-the-art facility, built to exceed the department’s needs and support future growth, while aligning with then-Governor Janet Napolitano’s executive order to achieve LEED Silver certification as a state-operated building. The Arizona Game & Fish Headquarters Building project team, who contributed to making it one of the most sustainable buildings in the country, includes Green Ideas, architect Jeff Will, Sundt Construction and Lincoln Property Company.

Green Ideas worked with state officials and the design and construction team to develop a unique third-party ownership structure to install a large, 160 kilowatt, rooftop photovoltaic solar system. This system served as the foundation to achieve Platinum certification, supplying a significant portion of the project’s energy needs when leveraged in tandem with low-E glass that reduces solar heat gains inside the structure.

Green Ideas principal Mark Wilhelm says, “This building would not have been possible without a commitment by the design team to ensure an energy-efficient building design, maximized use of day lighting and the use of the APS Solutions for Business incentive program as a baseline for design.”

The design component of the building contributed to at least six of the LEED points earned, and focused on elements providing a direct return on investment. The design drastically reduced costs and simplified operations for the department by consolidating and centralizing many resources into a new, sustainable full-service facility.

Game & Fish Project Highlights:
* Low-emitting finishes and inert materials reduce occupant exposure to formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) commonly found in the atmosphere of new buildings.
* Exterior light shelves were tuned to the equinox to take better advantage of winter daylight, while mitigating solar heat gain in the summer.
* 282,500 SF of open space was preserved and dedicated as natural habitat on the southeast portion of the project.
* The use of native plants and drip irrigation as well as the installation of water efficient plumbing fixtures save valuable potable water.

Project Results:
* 43% of building materials were manufactured within a 500-mile radius
* 65% energy cost savings, greatly exceeding ASHRAE 90.1-1999 energy standards
* 42% building electricity supplied by 149 kilowatt photovoltaic solar system
* 73% reduction of water use for irrigation and a 42% reduction of indoor water use, for a projected savings of more than 403,257 gallons of potable water/year
* More than 680 cubic yards (57%) of construction waste was diverted from landfills and recycled


About Green Ideas Environmental Building Consultants

Green Ideas, established in 2000, is a full-service green building consulting firm offering educational programs, product evaluation services and world-class LEED consulting services. Its clients are building owners, architects, engineers, contractors, utilities and green product manufacturers. With a vision as bold as the results they achieve, Green Ideas is dedicated to transforming the market by promoting buildings that are designed, built and operated in a manner that improves the health, well-being and productivity of people and the environment.Green Ideas is proud to be one of the leading companies specializing in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Consulting including charrette facilitation, programming assistance, LEED registration, documentation and certification services. Green Ideas develops and implements marketing programs that will enhance companies’ images and visibility in the green building marketplace with a positive return on investment. 

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AZRE: Arizona Commercial Real Estate Magazine | Southwest Build-it-Green Expo & Conference

LEED Certification - AZRE Magazine November/December 2009

LEED Certification – Making Existing Buildings More Eco-Friendly

Eco Buddies

This summer, two Phoenix office buildings entered new territory for existing private-sector buildings in Arizona. Collier Center and Phoenix Plaza became Arizona’s first privately owned multi-tenant existing buildings to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s consideration for LEED certification, thanks to the efforts of their owners and their two building managers. Both buildings are seeking LEED-Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EB O&M) Silver-level certification.

Of course, LEED certification isn’t just about saving the world. It’s also about being best-in-class, separating a company’s building from its competition and improving operating efficiency. LEED-certified buildings promote an eco-friendly workplace and, in most cases, offer lower overall operating expenses — two factors tenants are specifically looking for these days.

LEED in the Private Sector

Yet, to date, the USGBC lists only three LEED-certified existing buildings in Arizona, two single-tenant quasi-government buildings and a single-tenant manufacturing facility. Arizona’s other LEED-certified buildings are new construction, and almost all are owned by the government.

So why aren’t more private-sector owners of existing buildings interested in LEED certification? Most either don’t know enough about the program or assume it’s too expensive. However, research entities like CB Richard Ellis are proving that LEED certification costs far less than believed, and can result in significant savings that will continue for the life of the asset.

For example, Collier Center reduced its electricity consumption by 30%, or 2.7 million kWh, between January 2009 and July 2009. Compared to the same time period in 2008, that’s a savings of $216,000, or 67 cents, PSF annualized — Phoenix Plaza’s results are equally as dramatic.

Also, Collier Center and Camelback Esplanade III are transitioning janitorial services to daytime cleaning, and anticipate reductions in annual lighting costs of 10 cents to 15 cents PSF.

The Cost of Green

Minimum costs to pursue LEED certification include a small registration fee of about $500 and a certification fee, which depends on a building’s size. As property manager for both Collier Center and Phoenix Plaza, CBRE reports these costs at $12,500 for each building. Additional costs to satisfy prerequisites and credits vary from building to building. Of the 30 applications CBRE’s Sustainability Programs group has completed so far, the costs to certify averaged 24 cents PSF, and ranged from 10 cents to 67 cents PSF.

For CBRE, the certification projects took approximately 6 months to complete, including determining each building’s existing status and satisfying certification requirements in 6 categories under LEED-EB O&M:

  • sustainable sites
  • water efficiency
  • energy and atmosphere
  • materials and resources
  • indoor environmental quality
  • innovation in operation
  • and upgrades

Overwhelmingly, the process has been favorably received by existing tenants — and many have even begun seeking ways to improve on their own green efforts.

A broad implementation of sustainability practices, such as LEED, in the nation’s private-sector existing buildings can significantly advance progress toward energy independence and precious resource conservation, while also promoting eco-friendly workplace environments and cutting operating costs.

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AZRE Magazine November/December 2009