January 16th, 2011
As our sustainability class comes to an end, I must say that I have gained a better understanding of green initiatives and processes. In addition, I became aware of macro issues such as public policy affecting sustainable objectives, federal tax incentives for future sustainable projects and the nuts and bolts in constructing sustainable homes and buildings. I learned a lot of useful information and thoroughly enjoyed the conversations & viewpoints from my classmates.
Good Luck to everyone in your future sustainable careers!
*Cartoon courtesy of Google Images
January 16th, 2011
Our last class tour was at Frito Lay on January 11 and our presenter was Director of Facilities & Corporate Services George Guck. He discussed how the organization reviewed its sustainability goals and made positive changes that resulted in Frito Lay receiving the LEED Gold certification. Their initial goals were to reduce energy by 25%, reduce water consumption by 50% and reduce waste stream into landfills by 75%. Although these were hefty goals, they realized that newer technology would help them achieve their desired results. For example, regarding their irrigation, they installed one earth station on campus that monitored wind, temperature and direction. This information was then interfaced to multiple wireless sensors on campus. So instead of having schedules for their sprinkler system, the interfaced system (based on moisture content) will tell the controller if it should turn on those sprinklers in those zones. The process is expected to save 30% or 11 million gallons in water per year.
Recently, the organization reduced their number of printers from 2000 units to 250 units resulting in a 90% reduction in machines and a cost savings of $1.1 million. In 2007, Frito Lay converted all restrooms to a touch less system – including faucets, doors, soap dispensers, etc. to conserve water usage and improve sanitation. In addition, they focused on the transportation sector to reduce the emissions from their Frito Lay Fleet. Here’s a great video on their Fleet strategy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjs1ccenokw
All of the sustainable initiatives at the headquarters location are also being implemented at their other locations across the United States. And the journey continues….George stressed that an organization must continue to monitor all costs and look for improvements. There are many cost areas that are overlooked and could possibly save the organization additional dollars. To illustrate, George mentioned that architects bring their drawings on paper for approvals/changes. This process occurs several times since many changes are made prior to final approval. All paper costs are then charged to Frito Lay. Therefore, George instructed the architect to bring his drawing on a laptop and to not print any documents until the final choice was officially approved/stamped by the organization. To help managers with these types of issues, George recommended the class to read books on finance for non-financial managers and effective negotiating. The main focus for all sustainable projects will include cost evaluation, for that reason, sustainable managers must understand financial concepts such as real options, ROI, net present value and cash flows.
*Images courtesy of Google Images
January 16th, 2011
On January 11, we visited the Texas Instrument RFAB building which is situated on a 92 acre lot. Paul Westbrook and Paul Ruiz presented the building’s sustainability features to our group. The RFAB facility builds 20 billion chips in one year. Unfortunately, the wafer production process can consume 170,000 mWh in electricity per year and 3 million gallon of water per day. In addition, the assembly of these electronic wafers requires that the RFAB location include a clean room space – any little particle can mess up the wafer. Therefore, TI’s goal is to try to be less unsustainable. They have installed a white reflective roof, captured rainwater for irrigation, and replanted the area’s landscape with native plants that don’t require much water while only mowing twice a year. The recycle rate at the RFAB is 95%. Some additional green features include faucets with sensors that are recharged by a small water turbine, light shelves to utilize natural daylight and solar water heater for administrative areas. Per the TI RFAB environment leadership document, energy efficiencies will help reduce emissions by 50 percent and water conservation efforts will reduce water consumption by 40%. With these initiatives, the RFAB facility was awarded the LEED Gold certification.
To motivate management to spend the dollars needed for the green projects, Westbrook provides a competitive advantage analysis that highlights how the green plans will help TI save costs and become a stronger competitor in the industry. As stated in the TI RFAB document, “TI spent about $1.5 million of its $320 million construction costs on sustainable design. In return, the company expects to see a million dollars of savings in the first year of production, ramping up to more than $4 million a year once the factory is fully operational.”
An interesting thing to note about this facility is that after it was completed, the building sat empty for a couple of years due to the state of the economy. This is an important cost to consider for businesses when deciding to build a new LEED certified structure. The motivation for LEED construction is the low variable monthly utility costs that a company will undergo during operations. However, if the economy is in a recession, portions of the building or the entire building itself may go empty for several years. While the variable costs will still remain low, the projected revenue will be non-existent and will stall future growth. Company decision makers should include this cost scenario when evaluating opportunities for LEED construction.
*Images courtesy of Google Images
January 16th, 2011
The Trinity River Audubon is a 120 acre site that provides educational information to students and the general public regarding nature based experiences. The center is LEED Gold certified and was designed by Antoine Predock to look like a bird. We toured the nature spot on January 8 with our tour leader Zeshan Segal. The site was originally an illegal dump and was eventually transformed into an area filled with nature trails, a discovery garden, wildlife and bird watching. The main motivation behind the project was to see what would happen when you remediate a site and turn it into something educational.
As an example of adding more natural beauty to the Audubon, following is a video that shows the center building a butterfly garden. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ1j0BICjeY
Some of the sustainable elements include recycled denim insulation, two solar panels, office space day lighting, and automated heating and chilling. The exhibit hall was minimally designed to encourage people to go outside and enjoy the natural settings. An interesting green feature is the slanted vegetation rooftop. There is 12 to 18 inches of topsoil on the vegetated roof; however, the center is having difficulty in growing items in the rooftop garden.
The Audubon tour showed me how transforming neglected regions can provide growth opportunities for the local areas. By turning the illegal dump into a natural environment, neighborhood pride can be restored. This process may motivate local residents to become more involved in rebuilding their city.
*Images courtesy of Google Images
January 16th, 2011
On January 8, our sustainability class toured the Park Seventeen building in Dallas. Our tour presenter was Jackson Murphy of Huitt-Zollars & Green Bean Analysis. He does a lot of financial analysis on sustainability and has worked in sustainability for 12 years. He mentioned that the main goal of sustainable commercial buildings is to get the product/service you want while minimizing the resources needed. In Park Seventeen, some of the LEED features include: parking area markers for fuel efficiency vehicles, light color roofing/materials to cut down heat in the summer, efficient landscaping which gets runoff water from HVAC system, low VOC in paints and adhesives, and installing bikes and changing rooms for green commuters. The building installed a green space which tends to add about 10% to property value.
Immediate advantages of green buildings include lower operating costs, improved indoor air quality and governmental incentives. Long-term advantages of green buildings include reduced urban heat island effect, reduced utility costs for businesses and consumers and economic development opportunity. An added advantage is increased productivity – a 1% increase is equivalent to entire energy costs of most buildings.
The main question business executives ask when constructing a green building is how much will this initiative cost. As an MBA student focusing on Finance, the Park Seventeen tour demonstrated to me how a LEED certified building can be financially affordable. There are many discounts and tax incentives available to help companies build these sustainable structures. For example, per Jackson’s power point presentation, 100% of the total cost of the energy efficiency system can be exempt from property taxes. In addition, the government provides a 30% federal tax credit for solar and small wind programs. Following is a great New York Times article that highlights how federal tax incentives encourage green business models.
*Images courtesy of Google Images
January 15th, 2011
Water…life’s most valuable resource. On January 6, Steve Chaney from the Texas Agrilife Extension Service spoke to our class on the importance of landscape water conservation. His main message was that we are running out of water so we must develop processes to preserve this natural resource. In the 2000 Census, 20 million people lived in Texas while water supply was at a level for 25 million people. However, the 2030 Census is expected to increase to 40 million people while the water supply remains at the 25 million level – a shortage of water is definitely pending.
Chaney said that the majority of pollution from the water system comes from the fertilizers in the yards due to runoffs. The reason is that most rain comes down so hard that it doesn’t have time to go into the grass – instead it goes into the streets, into the storm drains and then into the lakes.
One of the difficulties that occur when conservation programs are recommended is that many people who have the money to spend do not necessarily adhere to conversation practices. They want to exert minimal effort in preserving water. Unfortunately, this leads to low water levels – especially in lakes. In 2006, Lake Arlington and Eagle Mountain Lake recorded drought water levels that exposed lots of rocks.
Steve Chaney mentioned that the key to an effective landscape water conservation program is planning and design. He said that soil preparation and analysis is very important to determine the types of chemicals that are located in the soil. Many current homeowners are unaware of the treatments that previous homeowners add to the soil, so it is imperative to establish a benchmark on soil analysis. Additional initiatives include appropriate climate plant selection, rain water harvesting, rain gardening and appropriate landscape tools. Chaney also recommends to create a residential landscape that is 1/3 turf, 2/3 planting base and 1/3 permeable hardscape.
The information provided by Steve was valuable information that helped increase my awareness of the severity of the water shortages. He also provided useful tips such as informing the group that the city of Forth Worth provides free mulch to Fort Worth residents. In addition, he suggested the website, Texas Smartscape http://www.txsmartscape.com/ to help the class learn more about conserving water and protecting the environment. One of the sites features that I will begin using in my spring planting is the search plant database that provides information on the type of plants best suited for the North Texas region.
Each year, landscape enthusiasts get excited of spring planting and plant all types of new flower beds, trees and gardens and add various types of fertilizers without considering the effects of the environmental impact. Steve Chaney’s presentation motivated me to review simple changes that I could implement to begin moving toward a more conservation process.
*Lake Arlington Drought Image courtesy of Steve Chaney
*Remaining Images courtesy of Google Images
January 14th, 2011
Philip Newburn has designed numerous homes as an architect, however, none are as near and dear to his heart as the one located in the Ryan House neighborhood in Fort Worth. Philip lives with his wife and daughter in the Ryan House which is a minimalist style home he designed with green elements. After the house was built, it was awarded the LEED Platinum honor – this is the first and only LEED Platinum designated home in Fort Worth. Some of the sustainable items Newburn used in the home include structurally insulated panels for the walls and roof, a tankless water heater, fly ash concrete flooring, natural day lighting and Energy Star windows.
The home was constructed by Ferrier Custom Homes who specialize in building green structures. The landscaping includes buffalo grass and low watered plants; all water drainage slopes toward the front of the home. Phase Two of the project will be to install a garage for the family.
Philip’s viewpoint on green practices is that green initiatives are simply best practices. For example, when a house is sealed up tight – that’s just the right way to do it. His motivation in building homes is to use the best construction methods. I agree with Philip’s thinking – quality and efficiency should always be at the forefront of any type of project…regardless if there is a green objective or not. These ideas originally came from our grandparents and great grandparents. During their lifetime, they focused on simplicity and ensuring that things were built to last. There was great pride in the craftsmanship of construction and design. In addition, our grandparents stressed recycling and conservation. They had little money, so they wanted to make their resources last as long as possible. Fortunately, these lessons are now being reapplied to the sustainable initiatives of today.
*Images courtesy of Ferrier Custome Homes and Philip Newburn
January 14th, 2011
On January 6, Professor Mullen gave us some insight as to why he was pursuing a PHD. Although he mentioned that he was working toward the advanced degree simply because he liked the title, he said the main reason for the PHD is that he likes the urban side of development, architecture and real estate. As an architect, he can design buildings but is limited on the impact of the community. He wants to focus on what architecture does for the entire neighborhood – i.e. what does redevelopment do to the people that are currently living in that area. Professor Mullen wants to develop a sustainable environment while keeping the texture and culture of the community. He recommended reading Jane Jacobs (an activist for urban planning) to get a better understanding of urban renewal. http://www.pps.org/articles/jjacobs-2/
*Image courtesy Brant Mullen
January 14th, 2011
Heather Ferrier is no stranger to building and remodeling homes with sustainable building blocks. A few years ago, she worked with her father, Don Ferrier, in building an affordable and sustainable modern home. She was a recent college graduate at the time and her budget was only $115 per square foot for the planned 2, 028 square foot home. The Ferrier’s were successful in building a reasonably priced home while incorporating mostly sustainable items such as passive solar principles, a 3000 gallon tank to collect rain for lawn maintenance and the use of Ash harvested within the local metro area for cabinets and storage areas . They received a great deal of recognition in the industry and were even profiled in the September 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
On January 4, we toured Heather’s second home – a remodeled house with green upgrades located on Lovell Street in Fort Worth. The original home had been neglected and needed plenty of repairs. For example, the property had untreated wood on the dirt which resulted in fairly extensive termite damage. In addition, the initial fireplace was a wood burning fireplace that was converted to gas which was unsafe, so Heather and her team reverted it back to a wood fireplace. Some of the green upgrades Heather added to the house include a tankless water heater, sealing around doors and windows with expanding foam, and low flow plumbing fixtures. In addition, she restored the hardwood floors, vent a hood, paneling and porches. The entire green upgrades were 4% of the cost of construction.
By touring Heather’s renovated home, I saw many opportunities to green my own home without actually renovating the entire house. There are many small changes we can make to take steps to living in a greener home. (For example: installing tankless water heaters, using low VOC products for flooring and wall paint and utilizing Energy Star appliances.) To get started, here’s a great link on how to remodel for a green home.
*Heather Ferrier and Affordable Modern Home Image courtesy of Google Images
* Lovell Remodeled Home Image courtesy of Ferrier Custom Homes
January 13th, 2011
Our tour of the TCC Trinity River Campus on January 4th was led by facilities/maintenance representatives, Greg and Robert. They were very informative on the sustainable elements of the building. The TCC building is just shy of 1 million square feet and was LEED Silver certified in December 2004. Originally, the building was owned & developed by Radio Shack (and was LEED certified under Radio Shack’s ownership). Radio Shack later sold the building to TCC and now leases office space for their headquarters in the building.
Greg mentioned that they use two air filters for each unit in the building – a pre-filter and a 12 inch deep filter. These filters provide 80-85% efficiency air flow. The deep air filters are used for approximately two years and are then thrown away – they are not recycled. TCC should re-evaluate this process and implement new procedures to ensure that the filters are recycled and used in other sustainable ways.
An interesting part of the tour was the section where the chillers were located. TCC chills water (650 tons) and pumps that around the facility. Any day of the year, there is at least one chiller running since they are in a critical business environment – i.e. it’s a data center. When one chiller gets to 85% capacity, it will automatically turn on another chiller. Surprisingly, Greg mentioned that there was very little resistance heating in the building. He said that each person in the building provides 400 BTUs from just sitting. That amount increases when people move around in the building. So there is very little need for an actual heating system since the building is already sustainable.
Following is a link to the sustainable elements in the TCC building – some items include recycled cotton/denim fiber for insulation, occupancy sensors for lighting control and smart faucet sensors.
The TCC tour was very informative and made me aware of how commercial buildings try to ensure efficiency – especially energy efficiency from the data usage in the building. While companies are moving toward less paper usage, they may have inadvertently transferred inefficiencies from one medium to another – i.e. from too much paper usage to too much electronic data usage. TCC is taking steps to minimize these inefficiencies and provide sustainable solution from a holistic point of view by establishing green components such as data chillers and lighting controls while continuing to research additional opportunities for improvement.
*TCC Image courtesy of Bloomberg Newsweek
*Air Filter Images courtesy of Google Images
January 10th, 2011
To help our class understand how sustainability is connected to city development, Jim Johnson, Director of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., was invited to speak to our class on December 28. His team recommends policies that enhance and enforce sustainability. Jim mentioned that sustaining a city is similar to sustaining a building. While both groups focus on water usage, energy efficiency, air quality, materials and storm water capture, the city group also concentrates on transportation systems, zoning and building codes. Elements that are reviewed in the transportation systems include master thoroughfare plans, minimum/maximum of streets, parking regulations, traffic regulations and sidewalk construction and maintenance.
One of the issues the city faces is subdivision regulations that require a certain width measurement of streets. For example, if the city requires 40 ft wide streets, the cost issues will include more concrete and storm water runoff, wider cities (sprawls), higher taxes to build and maintain streets, deferred maintenance since the city cannot afford repairs and unhappy citizens who are frustrated that their streets are not being repaired. Zoning has similar effects to the transportation systems since zoning separates commercial uses from residential uses which reinforce the sprawl motif. Possible solutions to these concerns are more effective transit systems and smaller lot sizes. Recently, the city of Fort Worth proposed a city street car that would have encouraged higher density (smaller lot sizes) within the downtown area. To view the Streetcar Town Hall meeting, click the link below.
Unfortunately, the city council voted against the plan. However, city planners should not be discouraged and should continue to create ideas to encourage businesses and citizens to live and work in the downtown area for the future growth of the city. One of our classmates, Andre, mentioned that Fort Worth is experiencing a $77 million budget shortfall due to empty lots and foreclosed buildings and yet, sprawl areas are continuing to grow. More effort should be concentrated on rebuilding the downtown area that will revitalize the city and encourage economic growth.
The insight I gained from this presentation is recognizing the roadblocks that developers and city planners encounter when trying to implement sustainable objectives. Although their plans may project efficiency and economic expansion, political decision makers and uninformed citizens may oppose new initiatives and block future sustainable growth. The main solution to this problem is communication. As more information is shared among government officials and voters, more people can engage in conversations and participate in the development process – perhaps leading to newer ideas and more effective planning.
*Jim Johnson image courtesy of Google Images
January 9th, 2011
On December 28, one of our guest speakers was Jerry Burbridge who currently works with our government’s homeland security. He provided a very insightful look into a developer’s role in sustainability. While his career goal was simply to survive in the real estate market, Jerry gained his sustainability knowledge through various job roles: Real Estate agent for single family homes, Land man for 3 years, Director of Facilities for 7-Eleven, in addition to taking classes in materials method and technology. Burbridge focused his presentation on the impact environmental impairment has on real estate market values. He mentioned that in 1989, there were no environmental guidelines so properties were sold for more than their actual value – (i.e. did not include environmental impairment costs). Today, more regulations are being implemented and companies are closely monitored. For example, the gas stations in California are controlled strongly to ensure that all gas tanks and underground elements are not harmful to the environment. In my research on these gas stations, I came across Napa Valley Petroleum which removed and replaced their UST system, conducted targeted contaminated soil removal and implemented a groundwater monitoring program.
Burbridge also stressed the importance of environmental site assessment. He said that all real estate property (land, building exteriors, building interiors and furniture) had 6 sides to evaluate. With land, one must evaluate air space and mineral rights. Building inspections include roofing and foundation, while furniture analysis includes potential offgasing elements.
Jerry showed the class a couple of developments he has recently managed: The McAllen and Weslaco Border Patrol Stations. Professor Mullen indicated that all government buildings must be LEED Silver. Some items featured in the buildings included: parking to sustain hurricane winds, solar and wind powered facilities, site was raised 4 inches by engineering fill and the fueling stations had to be above ground and bulletproof.
For the future, Burbridge mentioned that there will be a deep market in retrofitting and changing use in buildings. Everything will eventually become green, so students should dive into the marketplace to help drive these initiatives. Per Jessalyn Dingwell in The Green Economy Post, the retrofit market is expected to grow to $10-$15 billion by 2014. http://greeneconomypost.com/huge-growth-in-retrofit-buildings-predicted-10-15-billion-market-by-2014-5476.htm
This is exciting news for our future economic growth. As the retrofitting market continues to grow, more jobs will be created (manufacturing, management, sales, marketing etc.) and new technology will be developed. In addition, homes and buildings will run more efficiently.
With all of these initiatives, Jerry mentioned that society must be aware of avoiding “greenwashing” claims – marketers simply touting green programs without actually being sustainable.
As a marketer, I work with clients in building their brand images. Being made aware of greenwashing tactics will help me provide better recommendations to my clients to help them avoid forged claims as they are developing their green programs. The green industry is projected to grow substantially in the next few years – it will also become very competitive for businesses to compete in. Therefore, educating all business executives (colleagues and clients) on the importance of establishing strong green practices will help them survive industry changes.
*Images courtesy of Google Images
December 22nd, 2010
On December 21, our class toured the home of Charlotte and Thomas DelaPena – (at 718 Bailey in Fort Worth). Our objective was to examine a home that was built with sustainable elements. Heather Ferrier from Ferrier Custom Homes (the lead project manager of the home construction) presented to the group. Ferrier has built 4 platinum designated homes in the Fort Worth area. Heather mentioned that homeowner education is a vital part in the construction of the home so her team works closely with the homeowners and architects at the beginning of the project to provide sustainable options for their home design. Some of the key sustainable elements in the home focused on energy efficiency items such as insulation, type of windows, energy star appliances, tankless hot water heater, and TPO roofing as well as other elements that include indoor air quality, locally resource materials, reducing waste, and a slab/polished flooring.
Coming from a financial and marketing background, my concern focused on the ROI of sustainable homes. Unfortunately, Thomas DelaPena mentioned that he would be lucky if he simply broke even on the home’s resale value. In addition, many appraisers are valuing the homes at less than the cost to build the green elements. This will require homeowners to place a bigger down payment on their home construction – which many are unable to do. Per Les Christie in the March 2010 CNN Money article titled Green Homes Face A Red Light, Christie mentions “Appraisals for newly built green homes do not fully reflect the cost of green technology, and the lower appraisal values mean buyers often cannot get the full financing they need from banks.”
However, the good news is that homeowners do receive a strong ROI on their monthly utility expenses. For example, per the sustainability site GreenandSave.com, a homeowner can receive an ROI ranging from 11.8% to 96.5% – depending on the level of green initiatives.
Home investors must review these factors when considering building a green home. While future home value is difficult to predict (recessions/economic growth, improvement or decline of neighborhood culture, etc), as more homeowners begin incorporating green items in their homes, more future homeowners will want to purchase homes with sustainable products which may result in increasing the future resale value of sustainable homes.
Here are the links to the two great sustainability ROI sites mentioned in this blog: Green Homes Face a Red Light and GreenandSave.com.
*Bailey Home image courtesy of Brant Mullen
*Insulation image courtesy of Ferrier Custom Homes