When the financial crisis struck in 2008 and recession ensued, environmentalists began to worry. As people lost their jobs and started worrying about how to pay the rent, they wouldn’t have time to think about reducing their energy use, recycling, or any of the other beneficial environmental activities that had begun to take hold in recent years. However, as the economy starts to recover (albeit slowly) and energy prices skyrocket (have you seen the prices at the gas pump?), environmentalism has returned with renewed vigor, and multifamily housing is at the forefront of the movement.
Baltimore: Multihousing News reports here that construction has begun on a sustainable townhome project called Towson Green in Towson, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. The Chesapeake Fund, an organization committed to preserving the pollution-ravaged Chesapeake Bay, worked with the developer, Bozzuto Homes to create a state-of-the-art “green” community. The efforts taken here “include the installation of underground sand filters that will treat storm water to reduce its phosphorous and nitrogen loads,” a rainwater collection and treatment system, and use of environmentally-friendly design and construction processes, which includes the implementation of Energy Star-certified appliances. But that’s not all: Towson Green is constructing optional charging stations for electric vehicles for unit owners who desire them. Now that is state-of-the-art, considering that electric vehicles currently make up a very small share of overall American car sales; however, with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf and other all-electric vehicles, demand for charging stations will inevitably increase, and Towson Green will be a step ahead of the curve.
Los Angeles: MHN again gives us the story of an ultra-green housing project, this time intended for students at the University of Southern California. In fact, USC students reportedly encouraged the university to take on this development through Facebook comments, another reminder of the importance of social networking (but that’s a discussion for another article). The complex, known as West 27th Place, is filled with adjustments both small and large that will reduce its impact on the environment. Developers were able to get their building plans fast-tracked by the City of Los Angeles by agreeing to include eco-friendly measures, and it seems that once they began “greening” the project, it became a (productive) addiction: David Hilliard, president of the development company, said that they set out for “[LEED] Silver certification, but we found that if we were careful in our selection of materials and construction techniques, we could gain additional points here and there at a relatively small increase in cost. Suddenly, we found ourselves aiming for Gold, then Platinum certification.”
The developers succeeded and were awarded with LEED’s highest honor. They did so through some spectacular measures; the complex’s location was chosen with consciousness of proximity to public transit and construction created 95 percent less waste than similar developments due to less wasteful building methods. West 27th Place features desert-friendly landscaping, low-flow water fixtures and efficient appliances to reduce water and energy use. Most impressively, the building’s elevator generates electricity as it travels downward and returns it to the electrical grid! The environmental benefits continue: front-row parking for efficient cars, solar reflective roofing, on-site recycling, and motion sensor lighting in common areas. This place sounds like the apartment building of the future!
Ames, Iowa: The green movement isn’t limited to big cities and sexy new developments, it seems. MHN gives us the story of a $10.6 million “greenovation” to an existing apartment complex in this Iowa town of just 60,000 residents. And, interestingly enough, it’s not for a fancy, shiny development like the two previous mentions – this time, an affordable housing property is going green. The 60-unit community, known as Eastwood of Ames, reduced its carbon footprint by adding Energy Star appliances and environmentally-friendly carpets, windows, and air conditioners. The project, unlikely just a few years ago because of the exorbitant price tag, was made possible by local and federal tax rebates amounting to nearly $800,000 as well as almost $4 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the “stimulus.”
I loved hearing about these housing projects and their ground-breaking ways of reducing their impact on the planet. Know of any housing developments that are making an effort to be environmentally friendly? Let us know, here or on our Facebook page!