Friday, February 01, 2008

Green Remix

With years of disinvestment in some neighborhoods resulting in thousands of vacant lots today, we are presented with a unique opportunity. We get a do over and our timing could not be better.

As the nation gets behind the greening of our society, St. Louis, an old city, has the asset, vacant land, to rebuild our neighborhoods green.

Recently, I visited a LEED certified new home built in St. Louis. The builder is projecting a mid-summer electric bill on a mid-sized two story home at only $80 per month!

Can you imagine entire blocks built new with energy efficient, "green" construction methods?

Going green on a large scale would be one more way we could set St. Louis on a course for sustainable growth.


Anonymous said...

If it takes $250,000 to rehab an old LRA house, or $10,000 to tear it down and another $150,000 to build a new green home in its place, which approach makes more sense?

Not an easy question, but for $250,000, you'd still have an old house. For $160,000 you'd get green - and much lower utility bills and maintenance costs. Financially, the green option seems to make more sense.

GMichaud said...

This $250,000 to $160,000 comparison is worthless. What size home are you talking about? It is feasible to make a rehab green and completely modernize the building. In fact when you include the reuse of scarce resources I suspect the rehab is a better value, certainly it is better built than much of the junk built today.

And yes green and sustainable architecture is certainly a goal. But there is still a failure on part of city government concerning transit, encouraging row housing, walkable communities and other efforts. Building green houses alone, while helpful, is like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound.

Anonymous said...

$10,000 to demolish an LRA building is probably a low estimate. If it's a four-family, the cost is more like $20,000.

The cost to rehab an LRA building is a function of size. And it usually costs more than what you think.

At $125 per square foot development cost, the cost to rehab a 2,000 square foot LRA building would be $250,000. The cost to rehab a 4,000 square foot LRA building would be $500,000.

Without some form of tax credit offset, those kinds of costs are usually higher than the after rehab market value for LRA property. What four family is possibly worth $500,000?

Unless someone can show me a feasible plan for today's market, I think I'd rather see an LRA demo and a new green building, than an LRA rehab done at some unknown future date.

GMichaud said...

Well a new building can easily cost $125 a square foot or more also, depending on finishes. Sage builders has green buildings for sale on Gustine for $300,000 for 1800 sq ft. This translates into $600,000 for a 4000 sq ft building, higher than the price cited for the four family.
In any case two and four family buildings are naturally green due to energy savings, and if they are row houses also, that savings can be huge.
I’m not sure why anyone would be so hot to tear down buildings. Demolition is a mindless act that requires no skill and wastes precious resources. In fact in makes no sense to demolish a building to build a green building, it is just about the most anti-green act anyone can imagine.

The reality is there is different markets in different areas, everything else being equal a rehab or new construction will both sell in the right area. So that Soulard, Lafayette Square and Tower Grove can equally sell a four family or single family green building. The four family would probably become a condo in that situation.

If you try to compare a four family in North St. Louis with a single family in Lafayette Park, then yes the LRA building will sit a lot longer in North St. Louis than around the Square. But that becomes a meaningless comparison and ignores to potential of both new and rehabbed green buildings to contribute to a green St. Louis

Jason Stone said...

In light of the discussion, and since our name got dropped, I thought I'd mention today's post at Sage's blog ( about rehab vs. new construction from the green perspective.

In this thread the truth is that it's not an apples to apples comparison. It's is generally greener to rehab, but it can be significantly more costly than new construction on a tear down lot, so in the real world that has to play a role.

Here's something else to throw in the mix just to stoke the fires of good conversation... pre-fab can be both green and less expensive to build, and when done correctly still be architecturally interesting...