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Inspiring net zero energy building for sustainable future

D.C. working to curb greenhouse gas emissions

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greenhouse gas emissions, gay news, Washington Blade
D.C. buildings are responsible for 74 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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.

(Photo by Beth Bagley)

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.

(Photo by Beth Bagley)

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.

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Real Estate

What homeowners are grateful for this year

Where you live should be something to appreciate

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Since you’re reading this over Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to write about gratitude as it pertains to real estate, so I started by Googling “gratitude, house.” 

Unsurprisingly, page after page of results were links to recovery centers and residences.  Sandwiched in between was a now defunct coffeeshop and yoga studio in Bandra, Mumbai. Although I applaud people who are in recovery and I like yoga, none of that hit the target of what I was looking for, so here are some of my thoughts and suggestions.

Can you be grateful for things inside, outside, and around your home? Of course you can! It might not feel as profound as expressing thanks for the people you love, or good health, or your chosen faith, but as a homeowner, you’re making memories and experiencing ups and downs that you’re going to reflect on years down the road.

Think about the purchase of your home and the steps you went through to seal the deal. Did you find it quickly? Did you compete with other buyers and win? Did you pay a fair price? Did you get a great interest rate? Did the loan process and settlement go smoothly? If so, be grateful.

Where you live can also be something to appreciate. Some people want a bustling urban environment with nearby amenities, such as shopping, dining, transportation, or multiple ways to exercise. Others want the quiet and solitude of a cabin in the mountains or on a lake, with acreage, wildlife and beautiful views of all Mother Nature has to offer. Still others want a larger, more reasonably priced home in the suburbs outside the Beltway, where they can hop on a train and get lost in a novel en route to the office. 

So, is your home situated in the neighborhood or environment you wanted? Did the schools, if important to you, meet your expectations? Is it close to (or if you prefer, far from) family members? Is your commute to work or school manageable? If you answered yes to any of these questions, be grateful.

If you work from home, is the space pleasant and the atmosphere conducive to ensuring productivity? Is the color scheme energizing? Peaceful? Would your décor get at least an 8 out of 10 from Room Rater when you have a conference call on Zoom? 

Is your home big enough to expand into as your family grows? Small enough for downsizing? Does the layout still meet your needs or have your needs changed? 

Is what you own your dream house or condo? Could it be? If you need to make some modifications, be thankful for HGTV, the DIY channel, YouTube how-to videos, Thumbtack, and Yelp reviews.

Living through a renovation can bring out the worst in people. Weeks or months of doing dishes in the bathtub or showering at the gym can cause friction in even the most committed relationship. Once your renovation is completed, however, be grateful that your sanity withstood the trauma of living through it. 

Be thankful for the things you don’t notice or think of often. Do you love the way the dining room chandelier casts light on the ceiling at night or how the sun streams in through the skylight in the early morning? 

Perhaps the feature wall you added makes you smile when you come in the front door or a favorite piece of art that reflects your personality catches your eye. Maybe you have pleasant memories of family gatherings in front of the fireplace or choruses of “Score” as you and your friends watch the World Cup on your 65” TV.

If you’re like me, you’re thankful that your boiler made it through last winter, that you didn’t have to patch the roof again this year, or that you found that hole in the fence and repaired it before your dog got out. 

During the year, we can lose sight of the things we are grateful for, so as Elle Woods suggested in “Legally Blonde 2,” I highly recommend keeping a gratitude jar. 

Use it to keep track of what you’re grateful for by writing things down and dropping those notes in the jar. Then, when you have a home anniversary or are stressed out about a renovation, when out-of-town company stays too long or when the kids draw on the walls with a Sharpie, pull out a note from the jar and read it aloud like a mantra. 

Unlike the sisters of Delta Nu, however, you don’t really have to snap your fingers after reading it.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate / @properties. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Tips for holiday home sales

Buyers at this time of year are more serious

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Tasteful holiday decorations can improve the look of your home if you’re selling at the holidays.

The holiday season is often considered a difficult time to sell a home – but sometimes it’s necessary. For whatever reason, you may need to make a move quickly, and selling during the holiday months from November through January is your best option. If you find yourself in this situation, you should know that selling during the holiday season does have certain advantages. 

Often, more than during any other time of the year, buyers are in the same situation as sellers – they are buying for a reason. It may be a relocation for work, it could be a move to be closer to an older family member, or any number of other reasons that require a move quickly. As a result, holiday buyers are more serious, and make more competitive offers, not to mention the fact that there is often less competition from other sellers because fewer homes are on the market.

If you find yourself needing to sell your home during the holidays, focusing on the advantages can be helpful, along with a few other tips, including:

• Add some holiday cheer to your home: Often, holiday decorations can add an extra spark of seasonal flair and can be quite helpful to sellers – provided that the decorations aren’t overboard. Decorations that are too large or flashy may distract buyers and make your home feel crowded or cluttered. The right decorations, however, can be cheerful and bright and add some holiday spirit to your home that buyers enjoy. 

• Create some curb appeal: The holiday season is a wonderful time to enhance your home’s curb appeal with tasteful lights and other décor. It’s also important if you live in an area where leaves fall from the trees to be certain to rake and maintain your yard and surrounding landscaping. Certainly, if it is icy or snowy, you should shovel your driveway and sidewalks and make sure your home is safe for potential buyers to visit. Additionally, bare trees often draw more attention to the exterior of a home, so ensuring that your paint is touched up, gutters are cleaned, and other exterior features are in good condition is important. 

• Choose the right price point: Regardless of the time of year, pricing your home competitively will help to increase your chances of selling it quickly. Often, homes priced too high will linger on the market. The longer a home stays on the market, the more skittish some buyers become, and the lower the price may eventually have to go to ultimately sell it. Pricing your home competitively from the beginning can be very helpful.

• Remain accessible: The holidays can be a busy time, with many obligations and activities. As a result, it can often be more difficult than usual for real estate agents to arrange and schedule showings. Clearing your schedule as much as possible to accommodate agents and potential buyers can help to ensure that you get as many showings as possible, which will ultimately increase the chances of a quick and successful sale.

• Find the right real estate agent: The importance of this last tip can’t be overstated. Finding an agent who knows and loves the community will help you to market your home effectively, highlight all of its selling points, and connect with the right buyer. At GayRealEstate.com, buyers and sellers across the country are paired up with LGBTQ-friendly agents who can help them achieve their real estate goals, and this can make all the difference between a smooth and successful selling experience, and a stressful one.

While these tips are intended to be helpful, it’s also extremely important to consult with an agent who knows your unique market and can give you tips for your particular home. At GayRealEstate.com, we’d love to connect you with that agent today. Get in touch with us soon – we look forward to helping you reach your real estate goals.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

To upgrade your home before selling or not? 

It often pays to invest in flooring, paint, countertops

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Selling your home? You might consider replacing those laminate countertops with granite or quartz.

One of the biggest questions many homeowners have is: Do I need to upgrade my home before I sell it? Is the investment going to pay for itself?  Should I make specific decisions about my home that a future buyer may or may not be happy with? There are arguments for and against making lots of upgrades. A decent Realtor can help their seller research how much various upgrades may cost, and what might give them the most bang for their buck.  

Most people start their home search online. So, the photos for a home are in most cases the first impression that a potential buyer gets of a house. And as many people say, you never get a second chance for a first impression. Most Realtors will try to get their seller to at least get the house de-cluttered, vacant or just as clean as possible for photos. If it’s in the seller’s budget, do we want to replace appliances? Do we want to put in granite or quartz countertops? Does the bathroom need an updated vanity? What kind of lights and ceiling fans do we have? Obviously, it comes down to budget. And each seller will have a different circumstance.  

For many people, hardwood floors are much preferable to carpet. In some cases, just putting in new carpet can be a great upgrade. But if you can afford it, putting in hardwood floors, or luxury vinyl plank flooring can be a nice upgrade. Cabinets – can be replaced, painted, or just fitted with new handles and knobs. Appliances, do we want stainless steel? Many buyers and renters prefer that. 

The reality for most people is that the home search starts online. And if the photos don’t look good, then there probably won’t be much traffic through the house. And the less traffic there is, the less likely an offer will be made. Or the longer it will sit on the market.  

If you have a house to sell, sometimes it’s good to go look at what the competition is and try to decide how your house stacks up against what buyers are seeing. It is important to clean, de-clutter, and put your best foot forward. The spring market is not far away. If you have more questions about how to get your home ready to sell, feel free to contact me or your trusted Realtor.  

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with the Rutstein Group of Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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