In Washington, D.C., buildings are responsible for 74 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. As threats from climate change become more severe, particularly impacts from more intense heat and rain events, it has become a city priority to rein in those emissions and plan for a more sustainable future.
Just a few months before Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act into law, the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment finalized its Clean Energy DC plan. This plan highlights more efficient buildings, particularly those that are net zero energy, to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
A building has achieved net zero energy when its annual energy usage is equal to or less than the amount of energy created onsite by using innovative technologies and renewable power generation. Some building owners may not know the best strategies to use to reduce energy usage in their buildings, let alone target net zero energy. While the following tactics may not be applicable to every building, the broader engineering principles of reduction, reclamation, absorption, and generation—especially when implemented together—can help target net zero energy goals.
There are many ways to reduce energy consumption, such as installing LED lights and energy efficient appliances. In addition, reusing as much material as possible during a renovation project can reduce a building’s carbon footprint by keeping waste out of the landfill.
The District now requires new construction to capture the first 1.2 inches of rain on-site to stem the flow of water and protect local rivers. A cistern can reclaim rainwater by filtering and treating it for non-potable uses like flushing toilets and irrigating plants.
Installing and irrigating a hydroponic phytoremediation, or green, wall can improve indoor air quality. The green wall allows air to be circulated through the roots of live plants where it is cleaned and filtered before passing back into the building. When working with a building’s HVAC system, this process provides a large energy cost savings.
A municipal sewer heat exchange system is an innovative way to absorb thermal energy from wastewater. This system taps into the sewer line and diverts wastewater to a settling tank that is then circulated inside the building. An exchange system extracts energy from the water for heating and cooling before the water is returned to the sewer.
Even when located on a tight urban footprint, a building can still generate enough power with a photovoltaic (PV) array to operate on a yearly basis. By utilizing the direct current power from the PV array, a building can power its lights, computer monitors, workstations, and more.
As a global community of Earth and space scientists, sustainability is also a priority for AGU. AGU’s headquarters building is currently undergoing renovation and, upon completion, will be the first net zero energy commercial renovation in D.C.
To help address climate change and lead within D.C.’s sustainability goals, AGU focused on each of the strategies outlined above. For example, AGU cleaned and reused more than 5,000 bricks during demolition and repurposed materials. AGU’s terrazzo flooring, as well as the Board room table, is comprised of reclaimed porcelain and glass from the original building.
In addition, AGU was the first in the U.S. to install a Huber system, a type of municipal sewer heat exchanger that uses wastewater energy from a D.C. sewer line dating back to the late nineteenth century. Finally, AGU will generate power through more than 700 on-site solar panels.
A proud member of the Dupont Circle neighborhood, AGU now welcomes the public for net zero energy “inspire” tours and to rent meeting space. AGU hopes to share best practices and inspire more progress toward sustainability through the organization’s award-winning efforts. By implementing just one tactic described here, building owners, communities, local leaders, and members of the broader building industry can make a significant difference for the city and society’s future.
Where Science and Sustainability Meet: This green wall is located in AGU’s newly renovated net zero energy building at 2000 Florida Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. AGU’s headquarters aims to become the first commercial building in Washington, D.C., specifically renovated to achieve the goal of net zero energy. The green walls, also known as hydroponic phytoremediation (hy-phy) walls, help meet this goal by serving as natural air biofilters. Tours of the AGU net zero energy building are available to the public. Learn more at building.agu.org.
In January 2019, at AGU headquarters at 2000 Florida Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser was joined by AGU CEO and executive director Chris McEntee and AGU Executive VP, Strategic & Organizational Excellence Janice Lachance, as the Mayor signed clean energy legislation into law. The landmark clean energy bill established Washington, D.C. as a global leader in clean energy to combat climate change. The ceremony was hosted at AGU’s headquarters, the first net-zero building renovation in the District, as an example of meeting energy goals in combating climate change.
Chris McEntee, [email protected], is executive director/CEO of AGU, a worldwide community that advances Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity. For more information, visit sites.agu.org or 2000 Florida Ave., N.W.
Why are so many people moving to Florida, Texas, and Nevada?
Affordability, low taxes motivating many to relocate
Without a doubt, 2020 and 2021 have been very different, life-changing years for many of us. The pandemic changed life in many ways, for many people in both personal and professional respects. From a business perspective, for many, COVID-19 meant a transition from being required to go into an office every day to primarily working remotely from home.
As working remotely increasingly becomes the new normal for many, the question began to arise, “If I can work anywhere, do I want to stay here?” After all, until now, most people lived near their workplaces because they were required to be physically present in those workplaces for the majority of the time. Now, if work is remote, home could, in theory, be anywhere. People are thinking less about where they have to live, and more about where they want to live.
Of course, that means different things to different people, and many factors can make a particular place appealing — or not so appealing. For some, it’s being closer to family and friends. For others, it’s a certain kind of weather or scenery — maybe being close to the beach or the mountains. And for still others, economic considerations play an important role.
After all, if you can live anywhere, living in a place where you can keep more money in your pocket is appealing. As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately accelerated the migration of businesses, families, and individuals from states that are more expensive to others that are less so.
Three particularly popular destinations are Florida, Texas, and Nevada. Here are a few reasons why:
More Tax-Friendly: One huge advantage of each of these states is that they have no state income tax. While there are still other taxes like sales, and property tax, not paying income tax can ultimately result in significant savings, particularly in comparison with some states that have very high income tax rates in addition to being more expensive generally.
Affordable Housing and Rental Opportunities: Many of the cities in these states offer more house for the money than what can be found in other locations. For many, location is everything – but for an equal number, location plus affordability is appealing. Many people like the idea of being able to afford a larger home or more land for a lower price. This is not to mention that from a business perspective, these states tend to offer more affordable rental prices for office space than some other states and cities do.
Mild Climate: Although weather often isn’t the only determinative factor in a move, it can definitely be a bonus. In addition to offering significant economic advantages, all three of these states offer plenty of sunshine, mild or warm temperatures throughout much of the year, and plenty of beautiful scenery for residents to enjoy.
Each family, each person, each business is different, but for many, these are some of the primary advantages of making a move to these three states. Regardless of your reason though, when making a move, one thing you’ll always need to make that move successful is a talented Realtor.
Maybe you’ve decided that the time is right for you to make a move to one of these more tax-friendly states – or maybe you’ve decided to make a move elsewhere, for different reasons. Regardless of where you decide to go, or why you decide to go, at GayRealEstate.com, we’ll meet you there. We are proud of our hard-earned reputation for pairing LGBTQ buyers and sellers across the country with talented, experienced LGBTQ-friendly realtors who know and love their communities, and who can help you achieve your real estate dreams. If you’re ready to make a move, there’s no time like today to take the first step. Get in touch with us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.
Real estate’s occupational hazards
From being locked out to walking in on naked sellers
“You should write a book.”
I hear that a lot from clients and friends when I tell a real estate story that most people wouldn’t believe unless they had experienced something similar. My colleagues understand.
Most of us have stories about Cujo-like pets, lost keys and stubborn lockboxes and unusual things we have experienced in the industry. And lest we forget, what would any Great American Novel be without sex?
Showing instructions will often say, “Don’t let the cat out.” You will gingerly open the front door hoping the cat is not on alert waiting to escape as you go in the house. If the cat happens to get out despite your best efforts, the natural inclination is to get the cat and put it back in the house. If you are successful, one of two things will happen: first, you will have to stop at the drug store to purchase some Neosporin to dress your wounds or second, you may get a call from the seller’s agent asking why there is an extra cat in the house.
Playing “find the lockbox” is a rewarding game we play, but like a mouse looking for the cheese, there can be dead ends and pitfalls. On one excursion, the box was yet to be found when my client and I spotted a gate to a rear door. We walked over, I pressed the gate latch, and we were in. Unfortunately, the lockbox wasn’t to be found.
So, what do you do? You go back to the gate and press the latch to get out, right? Except some DIY-er has installed a one-way latch. Your client tries to call her mother, who is down the street in the car with the air conditioning on, listening to a Barry Manilow CD. Oops! Her phone is back in the car with Mom. You call the listing agent and get voicemail. You sit down on the concrete bench to think.
Concrete bench, you say? Yes, a 450-pound concrete bench, which we push over next to the gate. My client, who is taller than I, stands on it and I boost her over the top of the gate. Finally, we have completed our exit strategy! We never did get into the house.
You never know who you might find in a house either, especially since COVID-19 restricted the number of people who could be there during a showing to three. I’m sure that didn’t count the vagrant who ran out the back door and left the gas burners he had been using for heat on or the construction workers who left their burger wrappings and half consumed shakes in the bedroom.
Agents can get pretty touchy when you lock them out during your 15-minute showing appointment (yes, that’s a thing now). It gets worse when they find you on your knees with your butt in the air, using a wire hangar (sorry, Mommie Dearest) to try to pull a key up through a 1/8th inch space between deck boards on the front porch where you dropped it. (The owner ultimately came over with another key.)
Sometimes, you have to put your Sherlock Holmes cap on and search for a special feature that is listed on the fact sheet. “Storage near the front door” could actually be an elevator shaft that was never completed. And sometimes, you open a door to an eave in the attic and find your client’s 9-year-old wide-eyed looking in and saying, “This must be where they play Dungeons and Dragons” as her mother drags her out of the room.
Many of us have run across the startled tenant or homeowner who doesn’t get the notification about an appointment. We find them sleeping naked or simply hiding under the covers, flushing the toilet, taking a shower, or in the throes of passion. Despite my habit of calling out, “Real Estate” when opening a front door, sometimes they just can’t hear me.
Years ago, I had a listing appointment with a man who, after keeping me waiting on the porch for 20 minutes, opened the door wearing nothing but a shower wrap and a soap-on-a-rope. I didn’t bother to reschedule.
Then there was the geriatric nymphomaniac who proceeded to snort lines of cocaine from atop the marble countertop in the kitchen as we discussed selling her house while the pool boy hung out in the nearby cabana.
By the way, has anyone heard from him? I’ll go check.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202- 246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
Renovations in the time of COVID
Clean and de-clutter your home before listing
What do I need to do to make my house pretty and ready to sell in the time of COVID? Some people are telling me that I don’t have to do anything, that it is a sellers’ market. Well, maybe. Do you know your market? Do you know the idiosyncrasies of your market? In many places, homes are flying off the market “as-is.” But in many places a much more nuanced home is getting the attention.
I am seeing more movement in the single-family home market. So, a seller might get by with doing basic repairs and some sprucing up/de-cluttering to get their house ready for the market. Then again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when in doubt, clean it out. (Paint it out, stage it out, etc.)
If you want to do renovations, you might want to get estimates from multiple sources, and see who gets you the best deal. I am hearing some stories that there is a backlog in the supply chain for hardwood and some other materials. Also, many contractors are booked up right now, or have been scheduled to get work done for months now. If timing is going to be an important part of the puzzle, you might want to double check that the work can get done when you need it to be done, especially if you live in a building where you have to get permission to use elevators, do work between certain hours of the day, etc.
At the very least, find a good house cleaner to get in and do a good job on the type of cleaning that is not done on a normal basis. For many reasons. In the time of a pandemic, cleanliness is almost the number one thing people are looking at. Also, we all know that the carpets get vacuumed, the windows get cleaned, and the shelves get dusted. But what about deep in the corners and under the counters and in the air vents and filters?
That being said, there seems to be a shortage of homes on the market right now for the amount of buyers that are looking. A lucky seller right now might not have to do a total renovation and might want to leave some decisions to the next buyer, but I would still advise that they err on the side of cleaning, de-cluttering, and getting it photo ready to maximize their return on their investment.
Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].
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