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Bay area green building seen in multifamily units

by Liz Vernon 

While many cities have few LEED-certified homes, Bay-area builders are constructing not only single-family homes, but multifamily units and even subdivisions that meet the U.S. Green Building Council's stringent requirements.

One such project is Blue Star Corner, a 20-townhouse development in Emeryville and the first LEED-certified multifamily project in California.

The builder, Holliday Development, used three different floor plans for the homes, which range between 1,200 and 1,800 square feet and cost an average of $675,000.

Kevin Brown, Holliday Development's marketing manager, says the townhomes have "a lot of pretty simple things" that make them environmentally friendly, such as bamboo flooring, Energy Star appliances and extra-tight ducting.

"The LEED certification was something we were pretty excited to take on," he says. "It wasn't a huge, daunting thing with huge cost overruns. It was putting in extra time and focus to do it right."

One of the new homeowners is Chris Kansy, who, along with his girlfriend, moved into a townhouse last September. "We like knowing it was built and operates with green methods," Kansy says.

Brown says that, while green building is becoming more popular, he wouldn't call it the standard just yet. "I think there are a lot of steps in that direction," he says. "From what we've seen, it's a mix of people buying because the LEED certification is important to them."

Kansy agrees. Living here has truly been fantastic. When you're living in a green environment, you feel better."

According to the USGBC, about 60 households in the Bay area have already been certified.

With the help of about 30 experts, Linda Yates and her husband, Paul Holland, started designing their 5,600-square-foot home near San Francisco in March 2004 and will break ground this month. They're hoping the net-zero energy, fossil fuel-free house earns platinum certification.

Some may question the larger size of their home. However, "LEED for Homes adjusts the award thresholds upward for larger homes and downward for smaller homes," say Ann Edminster, a green consultant Yates and Holland are working with. This means the couple will have to earn additional points in order to attain their platinum rating. She says they'll be able to do it.

Edminster agrees with critics' concerns about larger LEED homes. "It's the reason we have the threshold adjustment mechanism," she says. "I believe [it] does a very credible job of accounting for size-related impacts."

Yates says her current home is a gathering place for family, friends and the community, and she hopes the new home can serve the same purpose, as well as be a learning experience for others.

"We'll have a much smaller carbon footprint than many smaller houses," Yates says. "The more people who come through our house and see how easy it is to build sustainably and live green, the more impact we can have."

 


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