Environmentally friendly and energy-efficient condo communities dot the Valley
Today’s condo communities are beginning to adopt a newer “green” building code instead of one that’s been used for more than 20 years.
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was developed
by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in the mid-1990s. It’s
a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of environmentally friendly buildings, homes and neighborhoods.
In 2010, another program was introduced. Called
the International Green Construction Code (IgCC), it was developed by the American Institute of Architects and ASTM International, a standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a range of products, systems and services.
Pilot project underway
Optima, Inc., a development company in Scottsdale, is in the process of building a condominium project called Optima Kierland at Scottsdale and Greenway Roads and is incorporating IgCC standards. The company is working with the City of Phoenix as part of a pilot project to ensure that all of the standards are being followed. Optima Kierland, while in the North Scottsdale Kierland neighborhood, is technically within Phoenix city limits. Optima chose to work with the City of Phoenix in the context of its IgCC green building program because of the company’s commitment to sustainability and energy-efficiency, explained David Hovey Jr., president of Optima Inc. The company already has worked with the City of Scottsdale to implement IgCC standards at its Optima Sonoran Village community at 69th Street and Camelback Road. “The city’s planning department and inspectors are part of the process rather than bringing in the USGBC and a third-party to evaluate and inspect the project,” Hovey said. “The sustainability aspects of the project are agreed upon by the developer and the city planning department prior to construction.” The IgCC requirements are intended to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the natural environment. According to the synopsis released by the IgCC, “it can be readily used by manufacturers, design professionals and contractors, but what sets it apart in the world of green building is that it was created with the intent to be administered by code officials and adopted by governmental units at any level as a tool to drive green building beyond voluntary rating systems. The IgCC is not a rating system, but it incorporates what are called ‘project electives’ that encourage construction of buildings that exceed the already stringent minimum requirements of the code.”
But IgCC doesn’t guarantee energy-efficiency by itself. Many condo developers, including Serenity Development, rely on the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® ratings system to ensure additional energy-efficiency in their condos and townhomes. “Every Serenity villa-style condo (at Serenity Fulton Ranch in Chandler) includes ENERGY STAR-rated appliances with higher-quality components than standard appliances, resulting in fewer mechanical problems, longer equipment life and in many cases, extended warranties,” said Andrew Hickey, chief operating officer at Serenity Development. “Serenity undergoes energy inspections and verifications which demonstrate our adherence to strict guidelines related to performance, efficiency and savings.” At Optima Kierland, where the first 12-story condo tower is now under construction, energy-efficient features include rooftop gardens and Optima’s “signature vertical landscaping on the exterior of the buildings,” Hovey said. “This provides shade and protection from the desert sun, filters the air and lowers the ambient temperature. We worked with an ASU professor and senior sustainability scientist to select plants that adapt well to the desert environment and reduce water usage.” At buildout, a total of 796 residences are planned. Hovey also said Optima Kierland features electric car-charging stations and will include “top-tier technologies” inside each condo unit to provide owners with “the opportunity to achieve even greater energy-efficiency.” The Optima Kierland towers are “sited and constructed to promote shade, again lowering temperatures in the community and providing protection from the sun,” Hovey said. The bottom line is that environmentally friendly condos attract buyers. “Sustainable, energy-efficient communities give residents peace of mind when it comes to wall-to-wall comfort and home value,” Hickey said.