Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Direction of the Industry: Part 4

4) Green Technology, the 2030 plan and Original Green - There are several new city plans including PLANYC (2030 plan) and the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan that talk at length about a city with intelligently designed transit, water, electrical, communications and other building infrastructure. They also heavily emphasize sustainability goals. I believe the concepts behind the plan are relevant to the city of the future in the extreme. Conservation of resources is not just important environmentally, it is fiscally intelligent as well. The enthusiasm for green technology will continue to drive improvements in the real estate products that can be provided, and I have done my best to stay on top of the subject. I am a LEED Accredited Professional, attended the annual GREENbuild conference and the Congress for the New Urbanism this year and have been exploring a much deeper level of the movement.

I think the USGBC and other rating organizations like it (BREEAM, CASBEE, CaGBC, GreenGlobes, etc.) are achieving meaningful results through the use of standards which (for better or worse) are increasingly becoming law across the globe. International real estate investors need to understand the principles and goals behind these systems as they become increasingly popular in the marketplace and in regulation.

I also believe that the more fundamental solution to our environmental problems comes from a historical understanding of transportation, planning and architecture. Before the US and British industrial revolutions, all energy was expensive. There are literally thousands of years of building tradition in cities from all types of climates all around the world. These traditions incorporate the best practices from generations of master builders and end users. I am very much in favor of technologically modern buildings that make financial sense in the current economy, but I am also very interested learning as much as possible from our ancestors.

This leads to a concept called the Original Green, which discusses the more fundamental issues I'm referring to. As architect and author Steve Mouzon puts it, "If a building cannot be loved, it will not last. And its carbon footprint is absolutely meaningless once its parts have been hauled off to the landfill." In a nutshell he argues the following:
  1. We must first build sustainable places before it is meaningful to even discuss sustainable buildings.
  2. Sustainable places should be nourishing, accessible, serviceable, and secure.
  3. Sustainable buildings should be lovable, durable, flexible, and frugal.
These tenants encompass the entire green movement and are the universal principals Abu Dhabi 2030 seems to be based on. The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is an organization I have been involved with for the past five years. My membership in this organization has provided inspiration and perspective for most of my ideas on environmentalism in the real estate industry. The CNU works to create compact, walkable and diverse places that are inherently sustainable and enjoyable to live in. The Original Green concepts derive from many of the principles discovered by the CNU.

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