Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Greening of Development: Eco-Conscious Development in DC

Part II in a Series:

A mixed-use development along I-270 at Wootton Parkway in Rockville is about to get bigger, and though the size is not notable by a city in the midst of a development boom, the developer hopes to attract national attention. Tower Companies, a North-Bethesda based developer, has already completed office space at Tower Oaks, a gleaming silver highrise overlooking the highway, a familiar but little-contemplated building the developer sites as "Washington DC’s first green office building."

Tower now intends to expand the site into one of the largest LEED Gold Certified mixed-use projects in the country, including 200,000 s.f. of office space, 100 "luxury" condominiums, a 200-room hotel and a 75,000 s.f. executive-style health club and spa. The "gold" designation is the premier LEED certification for measuring the environmental impact of the development. The existing office space earned its awards by features such as super energy efficiency and air-scrubbers that ventilate the air every 55 minutes.

"Going Green is a major trend in housing development across the country," says Marnie Abramson of the Tower Companies. Tower Companies, founded in 1947, began a major shift in its approach to real estate at the beginning of the 1990’s, when the company began to pursue a policy of environmentally conscious development in Washington DC. Today, The Tower Companies sites itself as the 20th largest purchaser of Green Energy in the country and are internationally recognized as authorities on Green Building Technology, setting new standards for green development in business, residential, and retail real estate environments.

The Tower Oaks project will be green throughout: condos, a green hotel, a fitness center and a green office building. Another office building is already under construction and Abramson expects it to be completed by June 2008. "Green gives you more buck for your condo dollar," she said, adding, "it comes down to good business sense; the technology is improving and as it improves and people get better at using it, the prices will continue to drop for developers and construction companies."

Abramson described the growth and cost benefits to firms like Tower over the past few years. The investment in green technology is paying off and it’s going to continue to trend upwards. "It is the next big thing in development." She added that the condos will begin construction after that and will be built to coincide with the construction of the hotel.

In another project, Tower Companies announced today that it is teaming with the real estate firm Lerner Enterprises (whose owners have killer seats at all Washington Nationals games) to purchase wind-renewable energy to power a D.C. office building called Washington Square at 1050 Connecticut Avenue, as well as for their combined headquarters in Bethesda.

Arlington-based Pepco Energy Services, a subsidiary of D.C.-based Pepco, will supply more than 64 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy for the two buildings, which total more than 1 million square feet, making Tower Pepco’s largest commercial purchaser of green energy. Lerner's and Tower's use of eco-conscious energy will help offset carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas. Tower partner Jeffrey Abramson says in a written statement that the agreement "demonstrates that wind renewable energy credits can also be a viable option to meet our country's energy needs through a sustainable resource and reduce air pollution and the threat of global warming at the same time."

Part I: Going Green - New Condo Roofs Will No Longer Pollute


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