Archive for May, 2011

Grass Not Always Greener But Air Is Certainly Cleaner
May 31, 2011

New BRIT Building in Fort Worth, TX

Wow!  The new 70,000 square feet BRIT building in Fort Worth is incredible.  BRIT or the Botanical Research Institute of Texas is committed to the study of plants and the conservation of our natural heritage.  BRIT’s new building in Fort Worth just opened to the public.  At a cost of approximately $45,000,000, you expect nothing short of amazing with regard to BRIT’s new facility that houses various classrooms, a research center, BRIT’s library, and, of course, its centerpiece herbarium. It delivers a knock-out punch.  The building is truly very special.  You notice several things right away as you approach BRIT’s entrance. For instance, you notice the contemporary architecture, the concrete walls with cable trellises, and the curved covering that slowly pulls you toward the front doors, but most of all you can’t help but notice the grass on the roof.  BRIT calls this its living roof and it consists of vegetation that is native to Texas.  The idea behind this type of extensive roof is that it provides insulation and slows the runoff of water.  Most importantly, it returns a portion of the building’s footprint back to nature.

Once inside BRIT’s new building, you immediately notice how clean the air is.  Indoor air quality is one of the most important components of the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation system and BRIT is striving to obtain the Platinum certification, making it the first LEED Platinum building in Tarrant County.  BRIT fires on all cylinders that are important to LEED: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor air quality.  BRIT does such a good job, in fact, that it’s impossible to cover all the green features of the building,  In fact, a few visits to BRIT might be required in order to assimilate all of its green building features, but here are just a few of the highlights: 

5,000 Gallon Cistern

With regard to water efficiency, BRIT has low flow fixtures, waterless urinals, and two cisterns on its campus.  One cistern is underground and the other is visible above ground (shown in photo).  These cisterns collect water runoff from the living roof and store the water to be used for irrigating the native landscaping.  BRIT hopes it can irrigate all of its landscaping with water that has been recaptured and stored in its cistern and on-site catchment basin.

Natural Landscape Scene

BRIT has also been selected as a pilot project for the new Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a program that sets guidelines for landscapes that are sustainable.  BRIT is working hard to preserve the Fort Worth prairie and is allowing natural vegetation and grasses to grow on the north side of the building.  BRIT will share its findings on the natural vegetation used in its landscaping by conducting on-site scientific investigations and research.

BRIT’s Lobby

BRIT has strategically positioned its building to take full of advantage of natural sunlight or daylighting.  The bulk of BRIT’s windows face north and south.  The east and west ends of the building have few to no windows, reducing the cost to heat and cool the building in hot Texas summers and cold Texas winters.  The interior spaces are bathed in natural sunlight – the lobby’s floor to ceiling windows overlooking the natural prairie are especially impressive. 

Cylinder Style Solar Tube

Utilizing the latest solar panel design by Solyndra, BRIT’s solar energy system capitalizes on close to 300 solar panels each with cylinder style tubes mounted on them.  Each tube is able to collect sunlight from 360 degrees of its surface allowing it to collect and then transform more energy than traditional panels.  BRIT anticipates that approximately 14% of its electricity will come as a result of these innovative solar panels.

Sustainably Harvested Cypress Wall

BRIT has done a fantastic job of selecting sustainable materials.  The BRIT building was made with 20% recycled materials and they even recycled 97% of the site’s previous building, the Public Health Center.  With ceilings made of bamboo, floors made of rubber and carpets made of wool, the building feels very natural and sustainable.  It’s also very attractive and feels very clean, especially the air that you breathe.  BRIT seems to have thought of everything, including the use of low VOC paint to cover the walls.  The most striking use of sustainable materials is the cypress wall.  BRIT used cypress wood recovered from the bottom of a river to showcase its commitment to sustainable architecture as shown in photo.

It would be easy to go on and on about the different sustainable aspects of the BRIT building such as its geothermal wells, bio-swales, motion sensors, and natural vegetation, but to truly appreciate it, I think it’s best to visit BRIT and experience it for yourself.  Be sure to take the kids and let them enjoy the many different learning opportunities that are available.  While you’re there, you can see first-hand the living roof, the rainwater retention pond, the cistern, the cypress wall and much much more.  Congratulations to BRIT on the realization of a dream.

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The New Green Economy – Is it here to stay?
May 19, 2011

Everyone knows there are many different slang terms for money:  dinero, scratch, greenbacks, dough, sawbucks, c-notes, bones, smackers, and beans to name just a few.  There are also many phrases that we commonly use that incorporate the idea of money such as ‘Don’t nickel and dime me!’ or ‘Just give me cold hard cash!’.  However, there is a new economy with its own vocabulary that is emerging in developed nations that has very little to do with fiat money.  It is the green economy and the lexicon of this economy deals not in greenbacks or dinero, but instead it deals in words such as sustainability, green jobs, net-zero buildings, hybrids, carbon footprints, and acronyms such as GHG’s.  And for the record, green building is not just a concept which is embraced by tree huggers anymore.  All types of participants in the free-enterprise system as well as all levels of government are embracing green building and sustainable development. 

What does all this talk about GREEN really mean though?  The term GREEN is really somewhat subjective and difficult to pin down.  A more easily defined term is sustainable development.  Sustainable development is using resources in such a way that the needs of humans today are met without jeopardizing the needs of future generations.  It is a lofty but important goal to strive for, but it’s also important to keep in mind that conservationism and sustainable development are not new phenomena.  The Native Americans practiced conservation and sustainable development long before the Europeans arrived.  Early American settlers and pioneers also embraced many green building and sustainable development concepts as well.  Although it might be true today that many places around the world have at one time or another lost sight of the need to protect and preserve the natural world, the conservation movement is alive and strong and has adherents spread across the continuum and around the globe.  In fact, the US government is currently mandating that all government buildings have at least a silver LEED rating which will have a profound impact on the real estate industry, but just how mainstream GREEN becomes is hard to say.  Much will depend upon the cost to benefit ratio and how well green building advocates can quantify the savings commonly associated with green building features.

More importantly, perhaps, is that private businesses are starting to embrace GREEN concepts, realizing there are real savings that come as a result of making the choice to construct sustainable buildings or do green retrofits.  In fact, even the Empire State Building, an American icon of capitalism, has undergone a green retrofit.  The truth is that buildings in cities across the US are the second largest energy user and producer of CO2 and green-house gases, second only to manufacturing.  They are the silent polluters that have flown under the radar for a long time.  Now, however, there is an effort underway to change this as many people are beginning to realize the value of sustainable development and  the long-term positive impact it can have on the bottom line.  It appears the new Green Economy is here to stay.  Here at Blue Leaf Realty, we are committed to GREEN!

Differentiate Yourself Today
May 5, 2011

As a small business owner, I ask myself two questions at the start of each day:  1. Why did I go into business for myself in the first place?, and  2. What can I do today that will set my company apart from the competition?  Reminding myself each day why I made the choice to start my own business compels me to reflect on the things I really like about running a business.  For me, it is extremely gratifying for very personal reasons, but more importantly, I like to provide great customer service.  It’s well-known, of course, that entrepreneurs start companies because they have a desire to make a profit, but usually there’s much more to the story.  Like myself, many also believe that they can provide a good or service better than the next guy and this motivates them to strike out on their own.  This makes it necessary to differentiate yourself each day by figuring out how you are going to stand out.  Standing out is a must in order to succeed in today’s crowded marketplace.   This is especially true in the real estate industry.  There are many real estate companies competing for business,  so it’s crucial to differentiate yourself in a way that appeals to the consumer.  This is always at the forefront of our minds at Blue Leaf Realty.  Here are three simple ways to rise above the competition:

  • Make your brand truly memorable – For us, the blue leaf in our logo  makes us distinctive, unique, and memorable.
  • Make your service even more memorable – For us, this means that we do things to tailor our service to each client so that we exceed his or her expectations.  Our MISSION at Blue Leaf is to Deliver Remarkable Service.
  • Make yourself available – For us, this means remaining open to  work weekends and evenings because that’s when our clients have the time to look for real estate. 

In the real estate industry, differentiating yourself from the competition is very challenging, but I’m guessing it’s the same in most industries.  That’s why it’s more important than ever before to differentiate yourself by delivering outstanding customer service.  Just like Roger Staubach said, “There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

How do you differentiate in your industry?

 

Giving Thanks for Good Teachers
May 3, 2011

I’ve heard it said that those who can’t do, teach.  Obviously, these words came from someone who has never taught.  Teaching well is part art and part science and is incredibly challenging, and anyone who has ever taught or been taught by a good teacher knows this.  We must do a better job in this country of recognizing and encouraging good teachers to remain in the classroom.  If we don’t, they will find their way into other jobs in the private sector where their talents will be better rewarded.  This means that testing must take a back seat to teaching and teachers must be properly compensated for their efforts.  At BlueLeaf Realty, we love to help teachers with their real estate transactions.  We have a special place in our hearts for those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of young people.  Teachers – keep up the good work – we salute you!