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It's Easy Being Green

The downside: Waterford can't up the price of the Spectrum's units to recoup the cost of building green. The condos are priced from the $400s to $600s, with four penthouse units in the $800s. Waterford will have to cover the cost of hiring a green building consultant, as well as foot the bill for the heating and cooling system. The units deliver in the summer of 2007. Meanwhile, condo buyers at the Spectrum will benefit from a 10 percent reduction in long-term energy costs.

"Until homebuyers are willing to pay a bit more for the long-term savings, there will be few financial incentives for developers to design and construct green buildings. One way around this is for local governments to give developers bonus density for using 'green' features, and thus offset the added project costs," Gutowski said.

And that's exactly what Arlington County is doing. The government encourages green condo development through both a formal policy and an incentive program.

When condo developers undergo routine negotiations for site approval, Arlington County expects the developers to fulfill a certain number of green credits on the LEED grading scale. The number of credits varies from project to project. Formal LEED certification is not a must. In addition, developers are free to choose which green features suit their project best.

County staff reviews the project to make sure condo developers have earned enough credits by project completion, as has been the policy since December 2003.

Developers first balk at building green because it involves research, hiring LEED-accredited consultants, people to certify the projects and engineers to model energy-savings. But those are just the time and financial costs of learning a new technology and like any new technology, prices come down after a few years, say Arlington County officials.

The developer of the Monroe condo, located in the Rosslyn-Ballston area of Arlington, has had a rough time adhering to some of the LEED constraints. The biggest stressor for developer Madison Homes has been earning a LEED credit for reducing the amount of fuel required to transport materials. To comply with LEED, the company must buy recycled carpet that is manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the property. Most recycled carpet is made in a part of Georgia that is about 540 miles away, said Mark Smith, a project manager at Madison Homes who is working on the Monroe.

Another of the more tricky tenets of green construction is that natural resources not go to waste. Because Madison Homes had to knock down the site's pre-existing residential buildings, the company had to make sure the homes' old hardwood floors were reused somehow.

"People would actually come and pry it up and take it home with them," Smith said. The 79-unit complex delivers in late 2006, with prices starting in the $700s.

Arlington County grants a site-permit bonus to condo builders who exceed the standard level of greenness. If the developers can show that their projects will acquire enough LEED credits to be officially certified by USGBC, the county will negotiate a slightly higher density.

For example, paperwork submitted for a condo at 3565 Lee Highway, to be called Dominion Heights, agrees to pursue certification in exchange for four more units. If the condo fails to earn LEED certification, the developer owes the county about a $200,000 fine.

Turnberry Tower, a 247-unit development in Rosslyn near the Key Bridge, is one of the first condos in the county trying to attain LEED certification, though not for density purposes. The spacious luxury condos' water-saving fixtures and low-flow faucets will enable the building to use 23 percent less water than a building with standard fixtures and faucets. Window coatings will help reduce heat transfer, keeping air-conditioning costs down in the summer. To save energy, the heating and cooling pumps will use the constant temperature of nearby water sources. With delivery set for 2008, units in the 26-story highrise are priced from the $800s to more than $6 million.

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