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Sustainable, Affordable, Schmoozable

Dallas-Fort Worth
Sustainable, Affordable, Schmoozable
Achieving LEED may be a status symbol, but the cost isn't what many think. You won't need to sell all the Snuggies you're about to receive to pay for it. (Save 'em for re-gifting.) That was the message this morning at our Bisnow Sustainability Summit, where 175 of you joined us at the Westin Galleria.
Bill Weinberg, Aaron Bidne, Betsy del Monte, Kevin Myles, Michele Langenberg and  Kevin Ross
We interrupted our star-studded experts during their pre-game strategizing for a snapshot: our moderator and Winstead shareholder Bill Weinberg, with Granite development manager Aaron Bidne, The Beck Group director of sustainability Betsy del Monte, GSA Region 7 sustainability program manager Kevin Myles (peeking over shoulders), Behringer Harvard director of sustainability Michele Langenberg, and Realty Appreciation project manager Kevin Rogers . With pre-planning, it can be as little as 1% of additional costs to build green, Aaron says. Betsy adds for a high-quality project, striving for LEED Silver can often have no more hard costs with the extra expense than typically spent on soft costs like consultants.
Michele Langenberg, Kevin Ross, Aaron Bidne
Kevin R can verify the 1% estimate. It's what his firm found while working on a 73-acre Urban Living Laboratory in partnership with Texas A&M. It will be a place for scientists to research emerging green technologies. Data collected will provide insights into what’s needed to educate everyone (from consumers to architects and investors). It will have about 600 multifamily units that he aims to build to LEED Silver. “We’re going to document how we’re doing it. It will be an integrated design-build  construction bringing in contractors during the design phase to make sure we’re building what works in real life." And he thinks they can build LEED Gold for no premium at all.
Aaron says up to half of the additional 1% premium cost is consultant fees, energy modeling, and fees to the USGBC. Several panelists agree USGBC fees for the LEED cert can be hefty but say there's value to the market recognition. Investors may not look into every facet of a building, however, having the LEED designation signifies quality, which brings value, Betsy says. Kevin R believes the cost of achieving certification will decrease as it becomes more widely adopted.
Bill Weinberg, Kevin Myles, Betsy del Monte, Michele Langenberg, Kevin Ross and Aaron Bidne
Michele says Behringer Harvard is finding many low-cost or no-cost initiatives leading to significant savings, like simply changing a building's business hours: “We’ve had several recognize savings with the flip of a switch, and we’ve had good payback on lighting retrofits, most cases seeing that in two years.” Behringer Harvard initiated LEED projects on its highest-rated Energy Star buildings and still found cost savings, she adds. Tenants have provided great feedback, with some even forming  task forces  to find ways to be environmentally responsible and cut costs.
Bill Weinberg, Kevin Myles, Betsy del Monte
Betsy says there are three things the government can do to help: first, set the example. The City of Dallas is doing that with its efforts to have all of its buildings LEED certified. Second, offer incentives. Third, mandates (when they make sense). “The City of Dallas has a green building code that requires higher levels of energy efficiency and water for all project types,” she says. Kevin M adds the government could eliminate barriers and offer tax abatements: “We are limited to 10 years for utility contracts. If we could enter into a long-term purchase contract with wind-farms, we could see savings over 20 to 30 years and avoid the volatility of increasing costs.”
Servcorp's Julienne Turner, Olivia Ross, Ashley Maines and Sandra Colic
We stopped by the table of our helpful sponsor, Servcorp, where Olivia Ross (second from left), with Julienne TurnerAshley Maines, and Sandra Colic, tells us the Australian-based company expanded into the US in April, moving into major markets from New York to Atlanta, LA and Dallas, and more. “We were founded in 1978, so we’re only new to the US. We’re not new,” Olivia tells us. The company provides executive suites and virtual offices with three locations in Dallas.
Eagle Landscape’s John Wingfield visiting with USGBC’s North Texas Green Council communications coordinator Jonathan Kraatz
We snapped another sponsor, Eagle Landscape’s  John Wingfield chatting with USGBC’s North Texas Green Council communications coordinator Jonathan Kraatz. The North Texas Green Council chairwoman and founder Zaida Basora tells us the chapter has 700 members. She says more than half of the LEED certified projects in Texas are in the North Texas area.