Sunday, January 17, 2016

Communities Embrace Green Building

By Valerie Putnam

Green building, otherwise known as sustainable design and construction, is growing in popularity among master-planned communities. Green building practices use resources more efficiently to construct energy-efficient buildings.

"A green community is one that actively works to protect the environment by conserving parts of the area's natural landscape," said Tom Warden, senior vice president of Summerlin/The Howard Hughes Corp. "And implementing green development practices that help reduce the impact of development on the landscape."

As a trend, building green transcends all types of construction.

According to a 2015 Green Building Economic Study, United States green construction spending is expected to reach $224 billion in 2018, outpacing typical construction practices. Along with local or state certifications for energy efficiency, those facilities meeting specific criteria are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

According to a White Paper titled Building Green in Pennsylvania, published by the Governor's Green Government Council, posted on the Environment Protection Agency website, the main strategies and principles associated with green building design are sustainable site design, water conservation and quality, energy and environment, indoor environment quality and conservation of materials and resources.

Warden stated that Summerlin homebuilders must follow green development guidelines, including using low-water-use toilets and faucets throughout the kitchen and bathrooms as standard features.

"Hot water recirculating systems, ultra-high efficiency dishwashers, water softeners that are more efficient," Warden said. "And pressure--assisted toilets as well as other high-efficiency technologies are also available options."

Rob McGibney president of KB Home Las Vegas division said the company prioritizes water conservation and energy efficiency in its development projects.

"Maximizing a home's energy efficiency can lead to significant savings on utility bills," McGibney said. "Our Energy Star certified new homes are designed to meet standards above typical new and existing homes."

A tool KB Home uses to educate consumers is the KB Home Energy Performance Guide or EPG.

"It tells buyers exactly what they will be spending on energy bills each month," McGibney said. "And projects typical gas and electric costs for every home we build."

KB Home also integrates a thermal enclosure system. This system uses quality insulation and high-performance windows. High-efficiency heating and cooling systems are also installed.

Solar energy also serves as a resource to saving energy in a few area master-planned communities.

"Villa Trieste was the first residential development in the Southwestern United States to provide a combination of solar power, LEED certification and Environments for Living building methods as standard features in every home," Warden said about the 2009 opening.

In 2003, Warden said the Howard Hughes Corp. decided to make Summerlin the first community in Las Vegas to implement Water Smart conversation guidelines on a community-wide level. For example, Summerlin requires all swimming pools and spas be permanently plumbed to the sanitary sewer system for draining.

"Summerlin is making a significant difference in not only saving water but in setting a good example and encouraging resident participation," Warden said. "Now, water conservation in Summerlin is a way of life."

Landscaping guidelines include the prohibition of misting systems. It also calls for the the provision of solid state irrigation controllers with multiple programs and run times, the use of spray irrigation for turf and flower beds only with a mandate for drip irrigation in all other areas, and irrigation systems zoned for directional exposure.

According to McGibney, KB Home was instrumental in helping develop the Southern Nevada Water Authority Water Smart Builder program.

"As the first builder in the program, we helped shape the requirements of the program" McGibney said. "And had a great impact on its evolution and success."

Water Smart Builders must adhere to specific criteria such as all appliances must be Water Smart, toilets must be 1.6 gallon max per flush, faucets 2.2 gallons per minute maximum and drought resistant landscaping is installed.

KB Homes have WaterSense faucets, showerheads and toilets along with water-efficient dishwashers.

"This can help save up to 30,000 gallons of water annually," McGibney said. "This is equivalent to three typical residential swimming pools."

Besides making homes more energy efficient and conserving water resources, green communities need to steward the land and preserve natural resources.

"A truly green community also encourages its residents to engage in green-living habits, like recycling and reducing waste," Warden said.

"Summerlin's Christmas tree recycling program held in conjunction with Springs Preserve is just one way Summerlin encourages its residents to be green-minded."

According to Warden, environmental stewardship played a role in Summerlin's design and development from inception.

"Many Summerlin trails and parks are developed within the area's existing arroyos and dry river beds, maintaining the natural topography and preserving much of the desert landscape," Warden said. "Cottonwood Canyon Park and The Pueblo Park are two great examples of preservation of natural landscapes and preserved more than 110 acres between them."

The cost of going green is competitive with conventional construction. According to the White Paper 'Building Green,' "by blending the right mix of green technologies that cost less with green technologies that cost the same or slightly more, it is possible to have a very green building project that costs the same as a conventional one."

"KB Home has been using these building methods for years and at this point we don't see a difference in cost as this is our standard practice," McGibney said.