The condominium craze is a phenomenon often associated with controversial issues like gentrification and the expansion of privilege, but with such growth comes the potential for positive impact, and some redeeming features are appearing in the blueprints. As developers realize the profitability of green building, they are beginning to market that angle. Craig Saunders of This Magazine reports that boasting LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -- a widely recognized standard for environmental building) is giving developers a major edge on the competition in an industry where there's little to set the products (i.e., the buildings) apart. It's a marketing scheme that consumers can feel good about buying into, since '[t]he environment is a consideration at their planning stage, and at every step along the way,' writes Saunders.
A 10-unit condo in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego is a case in point. Roger M. Showley reports for the San Diego Union-Tribune that the complex will attain up to 70 percent of its energy from solar panels. In addition, the project will use chemical-free building materials, wood discarded by lumber companies, and a landscape of fruit trees and herbs. Developer Craig Brod told Showley that environmentally sound condos are worth the 3 percent to 5 percent extra in building costs, adding that, '[t]he majority of builders in America are creating a travesty. They're charging people a lot of money for a product that is basically inferior to what it could be.'
Though a green condo may be more expensive than its conventional counterpart, buyers can walk away with a satisfaction that's more tangible than the warm and fuzzy feeling of shrinking their eco-footprint. This' Saunders points out that since much of the work goes toward making buildings more energy and water efficient, the savings from reduced bills will add an extra layer or two to owners' wallets in the future.
Some developers are going a step further, combining green living with green transportation. Saunders writes that designers often incorporate ways to minimize gas usage, like constructing condos a walkable distance from amenities and cultural centers or including a membership to a co-op car in the condo package. In Dallas the purchase of a 'Buzz' condo comes complete with an electric moped. Residents can recharge in the garage using wind-powered electricity, writes Christine Perez of the Dallas Business Journal. The planners forewent typical condo perks like swimming pools for more eco-minded and utilitarian benefits. After all, says co-developer Zad Roumaya, '[y]ou can't drive a swimming pool to the office.'
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