December 12 2013

Financial Feasibility of Green Building Retrofits: The Case of Kansas City, Missouri

“Green” or “sustainable” buildings use key resources like energy, water, materials, and land much more efficiently than buildings that are simply built to code. Dimensions such as site planning, indoor environmental air quality, materials, resources and water efficiency are some things these new breeds of built environment take into account. The process begins with the building walk-through or site assessment that usually occurs at the onset of any rehab project, and continues until delivery. While certain green measures may result in an increase in initial costs, integrating green strategies into a project will lower operating costs through energy efficiency savings and reduced maintenance and equipment replacement.

Local non-profits, with the help of neighborhood leaders, coordinating council, local utilities and other strategic partners, are increasingly supporting and accelerating the incorporation of sustainable building principles into the design, construction and management of a full range of projects. Green rehabilitation initiatives are dedicated to reducing the loss of rental housing that is affordable to low-income families, especially the federally-assisted housing facing expiring rent and mortgage subsidies. Affordable and sustainable housing developments that integrate green building into their rehabilitation projects benefit from lower energy bills, equipped with equipment and products that are more durable and require less maintenance, and an overall healthier building environment for the occupants.

Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone is fighting the battle with increasing unemployment with job trainings in alternative, green and clean technologies. The Mid-American Regional council’s housing improvements are dealing with the issues of abandonment and that is a serious challenge. Upon meeting certain guidelines, no-cost assistance through the Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program is available, primarily to the elderly, families with children, people with high energy bills and people with disabilities.

For individuals or groups who may not qualify under the Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program, EnergyWorks KC, a City-based resource for energy-efficiency program, advises on ways to minimize homes’ and business’ energy usage and reduce waste and assist in accessing funding sources to make improvements. Kansas City Power and Light and Missouri Gas and Energy, organizations that power the city have teamed up with ENERGY STAR to provide rebates of up to $1,200 for energy audits and improvements.

Midtown Kansas City, Missouri

Cities around the nation are taking a more sustainable approach to rehabbing properties but the question of fiscal viability still remains: Is it financially wise for a low-income housing community to invest in a project that pays out years down the road? Are local reductions in emissions from energy usage from these houses negated by larger buildings in the area that waste energy? Should it be a local, grass-roots initiative or could state or federal support in these programs catalyze further change?

Credits: Photographs by Martin Seliger. Data linked to sources.

Sunny Sanwar

Sunny Sanwar originates from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kansas and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Sunny is also a Columnist for the Daily Star, the largest English newspaper in Bangladesh, and is currently working in local government at Jackson County, Missouri. This multicultural and interdisciplinary background gives him a holistic understanding of socially sensitive issues in energy and environment around the world. His graduate dissertation thesis in Public Policy dealt with local level emissions reduction strategies. His 2008 "efficiency over performance" project called the KU Ecohawks, aimed for urban transportation to not rely on conventional fossil fuel sources that pollute the local and global environment, but instead run on local wastes. Completely off grid, the mono-crystalline solar cell powered workspace charged the cars, with no energy taken from the main power lines. He also founded the Sustainable Built Environment Initiative in his native Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, which was renamed Bangladesh Green Building Council (BGBC) in 2011, when it became the national representative of Bangladesh, as part of the World Green Building Council in Toronto, Canada. Supported by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fellows, the council provides a centralized national board for green building certifications, courses and outreach, as well as consultancy services to private construction firms, think tanks and government initiatives.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013 at 9:12 am and is filed under Architecture, Education and Careers, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Housing, Infrastructure, Landscape Architecture, Sunny Sanwar, Technology, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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