Condos, apartments join `green' trend in building

Waterview Overlook condos to be environmentally friendly

September 05, 2006|By Pat McGlone | Pat McGlone,Sun reporter

Waterview Overlook, a condominium complex to be built in the Harbor West community, will be among the most environmentally friendly buildings in Baltimore.

Developers are using recycled wood for half of all the flooring and cabinets in the units. It uses Energy Star appliances and building materials such as caulk and tiles that are made with environmentally friendly products.

While homes and office buildings have led the "green" building boom, developers are now applying environmentally friendly materials to residential high-rises and apartment complexes in hopes of luring more customers. Though consumers often frown on the higher costs of green buildings - an average of 2 percent to 5 percent more than traditional construction - developers say lower energy bills for consumers can offset those prices in the long term.

A green home or office could mean a variety of things. The building could have been partially constructed with recycled materials or contain energy-saving lights and windows. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed a ratings system known as LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - that groups classes of environmentally friendly buildings into rankings.

Nationwide, green construction that includes commercial and residential high-rise construction has boomed from 38 certified buildings in 2002 to 403 in 2006.

Meanwhile, more than 3,400 buildings are registered and awaiting certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. In Maryland, there currently are 10 buildings certified as green.

"People are interested in this today," said Ed Hord, a senior principal at the Baltimore-based architecture firm Hord, Coplan and Macht.

"We architects have been pushing it for a long time but you can't really push it, it has to be driven by the demand side. People have to want it and right now they want it," Hord said.

The trend has emerged in big cities such as New York and Washington.

In Baltimore, Waterview Overlook, a 77-unit condominium building being developed by Consolidated Investment and Management Group, is scheduled to be finished in 2008. Developers say it will be 35 percent more energy efficient than similar condominiums made without such building materials. The condominiums will start at $270,000. When the project is completed, it will be the highest-rated green building in Baltimore, according to Taryn Holowka, communications manager at the U.S. Green Building Council.

A. Rod Womack, chief executive officer for Consolidated Investment and Management Group, says that building green is something new for them but will probably become their standard.

"It generally costs 3 to 5 percent more construction cost to go green," Womack said. "But in the long run, it saves the buyers and renters money in energy costs. So do we get a marketing bang out of it? Probably, yes."

Green materials such as energy- efficient windows, plumbing and appliances are being used in constructing New Shiloh Village in West Baltimore, a low-income rental development for seniors. Its 80 apartments are scheduled to be completed in May. The project is the first development in Maryland recognized by Green Communities, a national environmental program of Columbia-based Enterprise Community Partners. That program is involved with about 100 green projects across the country.

"We see it as a response to providing a healthier-living environment," said Dana Bourland, director of Green Communities, " ... and an awareness in the building community that there is a different way to do business that is more environmentally responsible."

Blair Towns in Silver Spring is a five-year-old apartment complex that was developed with green building materials, said Marnie Abramson, a principal at Tower Companies, which operates the complex. She said the company has found that consumers still struggle to understand what green building means.

"The cost of construction [in general] is so outrageous people misunderstand the value of green. People see green as the low-hanging fruit that they can easily cut off," Abramson said. "We've had other residents with asthma or allergies say that [their symptoms] been greatly diminished because of the lack of toxic material inside the apartments."

Don Tucker, a principle of Environmental Design Group, a green architecture and development firm in Bethesda, says that in their Eastern Village complex, in Silver Spring, an average two-bedroom unit costs $30 a month in utilities because of the geothermal heating and cooling system they set up versus a more typical $110 a month for a regular two-bedroom condominium.

Cathy Edstrom, a resident at Eastern Village, says that when she was looking for a place to live, the green aspect was not a big selling point but she is pleased with the results. The green features at Eastern Village include bamboo flooring and rainwater cisterns.

If Edstrom had to move, she says, "I don't think I'd go too far out of the way ... but if I found a community with geothermal heating I would definitely be interested."

Jenefer Russum, program manager for energy efficiency at the Maryland Energy Administration, believes prices for green products may drop as competition increases. And she said higher energy costs in Maryland figure to make more people consider green building. "I don't know anybody in the state that's not worried about their energy bill."

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