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!

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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.

Urban Beat
September 3, 2013

Fort Worth has more urban living options than you might think!

urbanftw

Fort Worth downtown skyline at duskThe richness of Urban Fort Worth is evidenced by the fact that each of its distinct neighborhoods “march to the beat of a different drummer.” Downtown Fort Worth has the hustle and bustle of skyscrapers and office buildings. The Cultural District has welcomed the development of So7, adding retail and entertainment to the internationally recognized museum and theater experience that has characterized the area for several decades. The redevelopment of the Magnolia Street area has brought a trendy, artistic vibe to what has become known as Near Southside. Add the current plan of Trinity Uptown and you have a city that revels in individuality and offers a wealth of opportunities to engage, explore and experience all that is Urban Fort Worth.

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Is New Urbanism Catching On In Fort Worth?
October 4, 2012

Fort Worth has a rich cultural heritage and has done a good job of preserving that heritage. With one foot in the Old West and one in the 21st Century, Fort Worth is a unique candidate for New Urbanism and it should embrace the concept with open-arms. One attempt by Fort Worth to embrace New Urbanism is the Trinity Uptown project. Trinity Uptown is a large mixed-use development, north of downtown Ft. Worth, that will feature 3,000,000 SF of commercial space and approximately 10,000 residences. It will consist of a 33 acre lake with a boardwalk and 12 miles of flowing canals and public walkways. The lake, boardwalk and canals will comprise the heart and soul of Trinity Uptown and will ultimately connect the northern edge of downtown with the stockyards. There will be shopping, dining, and entertainment as well as office and residential. Over the next decade, it will become one of the most comprehensive examples of New Urbanism in the country.

Other attempts on the part of Fort Worth to embrace New Urbanism are Sundance Square and Near Southside.  Both Sundance and Near Southside promote walkable neighborhoods where a person might feasibly live, work, and play all within the same neighborhood.  This often requires that city leaders rethink and reshape zoning rules and regulations that tend to discourage New Urbanism.  Along this line of thinking, city leaders have introduced form-based development codes or guidelines.
But what is New Urbanism anyway?  According to Wikipedia:  New Urbanism is an urban design movement which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s, and has gradually continued to reform many aspects of real estate developmenturban planning, and municipal land-use strategies.  New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards that were prominent until the rise of the automobile in the mid-20th century; it encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to regionalismenvironmentalism and the broader concept of smart growth. The movement also includes a more pedestrian-oriented variant known as New Pedestrianism, which has its origins in a 1929 planned community in Radburn, New Jersey.
ImageNew Urbanism is catching on in cities across the nation.  Cities such as Fort Worth should lead the way toward adopting New Urbanism design standards, as well as embrace ‘New Suburbanism’.  The suburbs need to adopt the same ideas put forward by New Urbanism.  It’s doubtful the suburbs are going anywhere in Texas so it is important to address the same issues in the suburbs that are being addressed in the urban core.  This may seem in contrast to New Urbanism’s philosophy, but connecting the suburban areas and urban areas via linkages like commuter rail is crucial to the long-term growth of a city like Fort Worth.  If it means making suburban neighborhoods more walkable with open space and retail nearby, then applying New Urbanism principles in the suburbs is a good thing.  Smart growth in both suburban and urban areas is extremely important if progress is to be made toward the goal of reducing pollution and congestion.  Just like in urban areas, suburban areas could be designed to be more dense with narrower streets and more green space.  A meaningful approach to development, whether it is new development, adaptive reuse, or redevelopment, is crucial to a city’s survival, especially one that is growing as fast as Fort Worth.  In the case of Trinity Uptown, it will be nice to see the Trinity River become a part of people’s lives in Fort Worth.

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!

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!

Residential Developments That Stand Out
April 29, 2011

Planning and constructing a residential development in such a way that it stands out is very difficult.  What makes one residential development better than the next is both objective and subjective. First and foremost, it has to do with location.  Location is a major factor in the ultimate success of a residential development.  Once a good location is selected, however, it becomes increasingly more difficult.   Suddenly, the challenge becomes striking the right balance between enhancing profit and creating a sustainable lifestyle for the future residents.  This is where it becomes essential for the developer to capitalize on the property’s strengths while minimizing the impact of its negative attributes.  During this process, many decisions are made that will impact the overall long-term success of the subdivision.  Everything from marketing and design to grading and infrastructure must be considered from the outset.  One local example of an outstanding residential subdivision in BlueLeaf’s marketplace is the master-planned community of  Heritage, developed by Hillwood.  Check out the Heritage development and you will see why the quality of the builder is certainly important but the influence of the property developer will also have a significant impact on future home property values.

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.