Originally I was going to write all about the latest developments in green living. I read a number of articles on and offline about how developers are adding green features, how some real estate agents are biking to viewings and open houses (How do they transport clients? Do they sit on the crossbar? In the basket?), and how many buyers are asking about energy efficient appliances and baulk at the idea of marble counter tops.
However, a couple of weeks ago I read an interesting article in Canada’s Globe and Mail (www.globeandmail.com), where writer Terrence Belford illustrated that in Toronto, despite the fact there are more homes being built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - the Green Building Rating System) standards, there are very few in the ‘luxury market’ (which the Globe and Mail describe as being anything that sells in Toronto for over $600 a square foot). It appears that while the mid to low-range buyers are interested in energy star appliances and recycled materials, luxury buyers are not. In fact, luxury buyers are going in the exact opposite direction – buying huge energy-zapping fridges, asking for counter tops made from nonrenewable stones, gas-fueled stoves and hardwood floors made from rare woods. The writer of this article suspects that “…environmental concerns are not on their list of priorities”.
This, to me, is rather worrisome. We are at a time in history where how we deal with environmental concerns is critical. Everyone, irrespective of their income, should be doing their part – even if it is just recycling their bottles and using reusable shopping bags to buy groceries. The writer of this article comments that most luxury buyers are in their 40s and 50s, and that it is younger buyers and developers who are interested in saving energy, not those who to whom utility bills are something that you ‘don’t pay much attention to”.
I don’t believe that this generalization is entirely the case. Many luxury condo buyers downsize from larger houses, and so there must be an element of that choice that relates to the fact that condos are easier and cheaper to maintain than houses are. Also, ask anyone on the street about their opinions on the environment, and most people will tell you we need to become more energy efficient in our general lives.
However, someone must still be buying those fridges that are bigger than my bathroom – but can’t energy efficiency and luxury go hand in hand? Can’t you have the counter top you’ve always wanted without decimating a small forest? Some developments have the answer.
The Dockside Green Development in Victoria, British Columbia (www.docksidegreen.com) combines luxury with green living. Prices range from a mid range $289,900 to a luxury $1,233,900 for one to two bedroom (plus den) townhouses and condos. This popular development combines high end products with environmentally friendly additions, including:
- 100% fresh air through central or individual heat recovery ventilators
- Low, or no volatile organic compounds, paints, sealants, adhesives, and avoidance of the use of urea-formaldehyde composite wood products
- High-end energy efficient appliances (they do exist!)
- Sewage Treatment: 100% of the sewage is treated on site – and the treated water will be used for flushing toilets, landscape irrigation and water features
- Alternative transportation, which will be readily available through: A car share program, upgraded bike trails, bike racks in the building, harbor ferry dock, transit, and a mini-transit shuttle bus – the point of this being the elimination of a car, or at least of a second car
- Bamboo flooring and kitchen cabinets (there is also an option for cork flooring)
- Salvaged wood products will be used
- Biomass heating, with a back up natural gas fueled boiler – which will make the building greenhouse gas neutral
One look at the interior and exterior shots of this building will show you that this is definitely geared for the high medium to luxury market, and it is paying off – already many units have been sold, including the commercial spaces for a restaurant/pub, a café and a bakery.
At the end of the Globe and Mail article, a developer is quoted as saying that it doesn’t matter what changes are made now, as the changes that are slowing coming through will eventually become the standard, and possibly even law. Therefore anyone who is resistant to these transformations will be left behind. This is an interesting point, but I feel that legal changes may not be as influential as social ones. By this I mean that being environmentally unaware is almost regarded as a stigma, and those who drive SUVs, don’t recycle, and have a freezer as big as a horse may find themselves being scorned by their peers, which is much more damning than any law could every be.
Whatever the reason – social or legal – environmental building is here to stay. And what to say of those changes that I wanted to mention earlier on? Here are some green changes and events that are happening around the world:
- At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Wisconsin School of Business Graaskamp Center for Real Estate will host a conference on Sustainable Real Estate Development
- Ecobroker (the first and largest provider of green real estate training for realtors and other licensed real estate professionals) celebrated its 4,000th member this August
- In Chicago Agent Magazine, K.K.Snyder Reports that in Chicago, the amount of clients who want environmentally friendly homes dramatically outweighs the number of energy efficient houses and condos. People are taking an interest because these houses are not drafty, don’t have ‘hot’ or ‘cold spots’, and are more comfortable for owners, in addition to helping the environment
- Green building rules are to come into effect in Abu Dhabi, in January, 2009. According to Propertywire.com, Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council aims to set new standards for sustainable development, and hopes that this will encourage similar plans throughout the Middle East region
So whatever your budget, consider going green, particularly when choosing your appliances. Being efficient doesn’t mean being cheap. Yes, you may think that people will love your top-of-the-range stainless steel 20ft fridge, with 6 water dispensers, but secretly they’ll be thinking that you’re as bad as those people who drive their Hummers ten meters to mail a letter. There are a number of stores and designers who specialize in creating high-end, environmentally friendly products, so while you may have to search a little harder, it’ll be well worth it in the end.
The views expressed on the blog portion of this site represent only the opinions of the author and may not necessarily be the opinions of Realestock.com
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