The T’s New Park & Ride
October 31, 2013

Park & Ride NorthMany projects are in different stages of construction in the bustling and rapidly expanding area north of Loop 820 in Fort Worth.  One such project is a new Park & Ride location on I-35W, south of Golden Triangle. Slated to be a 200 car lot, this will provide a great option for those who want to go green and save on gas costs.  The T has chosen a great location for its newest Park & Ride lot and it is a much needed development.   This project will be a valuable option for those who want to cut out the drive into downtown Fort Worth.  Fewer cars on the road also means less traffic and less pollution, a win for the citizens of North Texas.  This will provide another great linkage between the north part of the city and the city’s urban core.  With the new plaza opening soon in Downtown Fort Worth, it should be a great asset for people looking for alternative modes of transportation.  Welcome to the area!

Advertisements

Is Fort Worth Green?
September 19, 2013

green-rooftop citySustainable architecture and green building are gaining momentum in cities around the country as more and more people are realizing that decisions about how things are built and the materials with which they are built are very important to the overall picture.  Here in the US, green building is making strides in commercial and residential construction but it has not fully reached the mainstream yet.  The upfront costs and the payback period are important considerations when making the determination about what, if any, green features will be included in a home or commercial building.  Other important considerations are air quality, open space, access to basic services surrounding the site and walkability to those basic services, as well as specific design features such as daylighting and variable speed HVAC.  A truly green building is green because every facet of the process from material selection to waste reduction and diversion are considered up front and the design process is integrative.  Examples of green buildings in Fort Worth are Chick-fil-A’s LEED Gold restaurant in Montgomery Plaza and BRIT’s LEED Platinum building in the Botanical Gardens.  Both are good examples of buildings that include green features and an integrative building design.  As of Oct 2013, there appear to be approximately 75 LEED rated buildings in Fort Worth.  Fort Worth, like many cities, is definitely headed in the right direction but there is still room for progress, especially when it comes to mass transit options.

Going Back to School
August 28, 2012

As returning students, Liana and I did not really know what to expect when we signed up for graduate school at UTA in 2010.  Returning to school required some getting used to but we got back into the swing of it pretty fast.  Of course, we were older than most of our classmates and we had a business to run, but like many of them, we stayed up late on several occasions completing real estate projects and assignments.  Fortunately, we had each other to lean on.  We completed many projects together over the last two years and even wrote several real estate blogs.  Below is a complete list of the coursework that we completed to earn the MS in Real Estate at UTA:

REAE 5311 – Real Estate Analysis
REAE 5327 – Advanced Real Estate Market Analysis
REAE 5334 – Seminar in Real Estate Appraisal & ARGUS Software
REAE 5321 – Seminar in Real Estate Investment
REAE 5314 – Seminar in Real Estate Development
REAE 5319 – Seminar in Real Estate Finance
REAE 5317 – Real Estate Construction Management
REAE 5320 – Texas Real Estate Tour
REAE 5313 – GIS and Property Analysis
REAE 5318 – Sustainable Development
REAE 5315 – Real Estate Trends & Issues
REAE 5316 – Adaptive Reuse & Redevelopment

We learned a great deal about commercial real estate and would like to say thanks to professors, Dr. Forgey and Dr. Peterson, for helping us along the way.  For me, I must also say thanks to Liana.  She’s been a great study partner and has become a great spreadsheet creator, easily surpassing my expertise.  She’s not bad with a 10bii calculator either.  It’s been a lot of fun, we learned a lot, and we met some really nice people who I’m sure will prosper in the field of real estate.  Completing the program is a milestone and we are very glad to be done, but now comes the challenging part — putting what we learned into practice!

For help with commercial or residential real estate, please visit us online at BlueLeafRealty.com where the MISSION is to Deliver Remarkable Service.

Texas HOA Powers are Curtailed by 82nd Legislature
July 24, 2012

Are HOAs in Texas too powerful?  Many people think so, and apparently the 82nd Texas Legislature agrees.  As a Texas Realtor, I understand the value that HOAs bring to the table but too much power leads to abuses.

Fortunately, Texas has passed new laws that will keep the power of HOAs in check.  In Texas, a property owner’s association can no longer impose on a home owner’s right to:

Display the US or TX state flag (certain guidelines apply)

Install a solar energy device (certain guidelines apply)

Display religious items (certain guidelines apply)

Install shingles designed to be wind/hail resistant or energy-efficient (certain guidelines apply)

The 82nd TX Legislature also curtailed the power of the POA or HOA to foreclose by mandating judicial foreclosure except when the property owner waives the requirement in writing.  HOAs or POAs are an asset to a community but too much power corrupts.  As with any law or deed restriction, there are nuances.  Please check with your HOA and review the new laws for details on how these changes may affect your rights as a property owner.  Hopefully, these new laws will promote a more harmonious balance between POAs and the citizens that reside in affected subdivisions across Texas.  This is also a great victory for those who want to make their homes more sustainable and energy-efficient.  Good job 82nd Texas Legislature!

Eco-Friendly Flooring Options
June 26, 2012

Choosing the right flooring for your home has many dimensions.  Four important dimensions are quality, durability, cost, and aesthetics.  Adding a fifth dimension is becoming increasingly important – sustainability.  Sustainable flooring comes in many different varieties and styles.  Whether your decision to consider eco-friendly flooring is driven by environmental consciousness or allergies or some combination thereof, there are several sustainable options to consider:

For Carpet Fans:  Wool carpet is a good sustainable option.  Wool is stain resistant, recyclable, renewable, and resilient.  It is a great sustainable flooring option for those people who want carpet in their home.   It also absorbs and releases moisture and humidity, allowing it to help moderate temperatures, keeping your floors warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

For Hardwood Fans: For a more sustainable hardwood floor, consider a hardwood that carries the FSC stamp.  From a sustainability viewpoint, bamboo flooring is gaining in popularity because it is both beautiful and sustainable.  It is also very durable.  For more information about bamboo flooring, check out Teragren, a manufacturer of bamboo flooring.

For Alternative Fans: Consider alternatives such as Marmoleum or cork.  Cork is a great choice because of its durability and ease of maintainance.  Like hardwoods, it is derived from trees but it is harvested.  As a result, trees are not cut down and can regrow.  Marmoleum is a natural linoleum that is one of the greenest floors on the market.  It is highly durable, non-toxic, anti-microbial, and easy to maintain and comes in many designer colors and patterns.

As with any major home improvement, doing your homework is extremely important prior to making your final choice on which flooring to go with.  To make your floor ultra-green, it is also important to consider what materials will be used in the installation of your new floors!

Sealing the Envelope
June 12, 2011

 Blog by Liana Oram, Co-Founder of Blue Leaf Realty in Fort Worth, TX             

One of the areas of consideration when “going green” is evaluating and improving the building envelope.   These are the parts of the building that separate the interior space from the exterior.  This shell includes the foundation, exterior walls, windows, roof, exterior doors, and floors.  When you think about energy efficiency, this just makes sense.  When it is cold outside, we want to be warm.  When it is hot, we seek the cool interior.  Any transfer between the inside and the outside results in greater energy usage for us to be comfortable.  The two main action areas of closing the envelope are sealing and insulating – the main goal being to separate the inside and outside air.  If you are going for a specific GREEN certification, you need to be sure to consider these issue during the design stage of the building, but to seal an existing building you can use simple materials such as caulk and advanced materials such as OwenCornings new Energy Complete sealant. 

 The roof and windows are two very important considerations when sealing the envelope.  The options for roofs range from green roofs, which can be as simple or complex as you choose, to the installation of solar panels – a great way to create your own energy.  Green roofs also help prevent the heat island effect in urban areas – an extra plus!  Windows also have insulation and coating that helps let light into the building while reducing heat/cold exchange.  These low-e windows are increasingly common in all types of construction and are even part of many building codes. Doors and the efficiency of the HVAC system  play a huge role in helping to seal the building envelope and keep the occupants comfortable and healthy.  One interesting consideration when sealing a building is managing CO2 content.  Again, there are simple and complex solutions.  Opening the windows and allowing for a cross breeze refreshes the inside air.  There are also CO2 sensors that work with the HVAC system to bring in outside air when a specified level of CO2 is detected. 

When considering “going green” it is important to realize that there are many steps, considerations, and options – sealing the envelope is just one.  Determining your goals at the onset can help you focus your attention and resources in such a way to achieve maximum results and to take another step toward sustainability.

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.

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!

Building Green: It’s Not For the Faint-Hearted
April 19, 2011

Green building has definitely become a hot topic in the construction and real estate industry.  Whether a building is really green depends on many factors.  In fact, green building means different things to different people.  Some people see green building as a starting place where every construction decision is made with sustainability in mind.  Others give consideration to green building in the latter stages of construction where decisions such as which appliances will be installed are considered.  Real green buildings require the former and not the latter.  For a building to be truly green, thought must be given to pre-construction issues such as grading and site placement, as well as issues relating to interior finish-out.  Working with an architect who is skilled in green building design principles and construction will allow you to have a home that is as green as this year’s HGTV green home.