U.S. Real Estate Tops Global Property Market
U.S. real estate has risen to the top of the global property market among foreign investors, according to a recent survey from the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE). The results indicate that, despite a growing interest in Asia, U.S. real estate is most demanded, with New York City and Washington, D.C., named as the top cities for foreign investors' real estate dollars. "The ascension of New York City and Washington, D.C., as the two top global cities represents a very strong showing for U.S. real estate," says Karin Shewer, principal, New York City-based Real Estate Capital Partners and AFIRE chairman.
While the goings-on of the global real estate market may not seem like vital information for your everyday operations, it may be prudent to keep your eyes open. "The AFIRE survey has implications for everyone involved in the real estate industry. The world is getting flatter by the day, and the volume of cross-border real estate transactions has never been greater," says James A. Fetgatter, chief executive at AFIRE. "To be at the top of their game, everyone involved in real estate — whether it's a building owner, facility manager, developer, or investor — needs to have a pulse on the global situation."
As the list indicates, there was a drastic change in rank last year, with a total reversal of investors' preferred property types. "Such a dramatic shift is unusual," says Fetgatter. "Up until the credit squeeze in the fourth quarter of 2007, there was a tremendous competition for office buildings. One of our members suggested that perhaps investors believe they can find more value in retail properties." These changes, along with the jump in investor confidence in Asia, are things to consider as 2008 unfolds. "It will be interesting to see what next year's survey reveals," remarks Fetgatter.
Terrace Garden Offers Urban Retreat
Late last year, a high-rise, mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Los Angeles opened its verdant 4th-story terrace to residents. Culver City, CA-based ah'bé landscape architects designed the space to serve as a luxurious backyard, offering areas for privacy and outdoor entertaining. The terrace connects two high-rises, Luma and Elleven, that are part of The South Group neighborhood.
This project brims with diverse plant life, constituting a rare oasis amidst the concrete, steel, and glass of downtown. Specially designed planters and carefully selected drought-tolerant plants conserve water and energy, contributing to the project's sustainable building philosophy. The 13,000-square-foot garden's elements include a lap pool, lush landscaping, custom pre-cast curved benches, and a marble fireplace.
Designed with water and energy conservation in mind, the extensive planting area was intended to reduce the amount of hardscape and the resultant heat island created by pavement. The landscape architects incorporated a state-of-the-art irrigation system and selected plants that would help conserve water. Because of the extensive use of planters in the landscaped area, approximately 50 percent of rainfall is captured.
28 Jones Lang LaSalle Buildings Earn ENERGY STAR® Label
Twenty-eight (28) buildings managed by Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle have been awarded ENERGY STAR certification. Buildings in 12 states, including both owner-investor properties and corporate owner-occupied facilities, were awarded this label.
Office buildings that earn the ENERGY STAR label typically use 35-percent less energy than average buildings. Commercial and industrial buildings account for half of all energy consumption in the United States at a cost of more than $200 billion per year — more than any other sector of the economy. Good stewards of the environment are making a difference in the industry, and the number of ENERGY STAR-labeled buildings is growing exponentially every year.
Emergency Shelter Ready for Hurricane Season
A disaster shelter has been completed that can accommodate 5,000 people during a short-term emergency, all while being pounded by 200-mile-per-hour, sustained winds. The project, completed by Mobile, AL-based White-Spunner Construction Inc., consists of an arena and coliseum in Robertsdale, AL, that house the Baldwin County Cattle and Fair Association.
The coliseum can serve as a shelter to 5,000 people on the short term during a hurricane or tornado, and can shelter almost 1,900 people long term. Its unique, bunker-style structure and the adjacent open-air arena are built according to stringent guidelines that are virtually unheard of. The arena, without walls, can maintain its roof in up to 140-mile-per-hour winds.
Tommy Rowe, ex-ecutive vice president, division manager, and owner of White-Spunner Construction Inc., says, "The project is a unique construction challenge. In order to meet stringent FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) building codes that require the entire building to be capable of withstanding 200-mile-per-hour winds, many of our supplies and materials had to be custom built."
The project was funded in part with a $7.5 million grant from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Some of the features that protect the facility from extreme weather include:
- Interior concrete footings that are 14 feet by 14 feet, and 20-inches deep.
- Solid concrete walls that are 12-inches wide, with steel bars every 8 inches throughout the structure.
- A 6-inch-thick, solid concrete roof to protect against wind uplift and debris impact.
- A 1,000-kilowatt generator to power 100 percent of the facility if power is lost.
- Wind- and debris-impact-resistant roll-up doors covering glass entry doors.
Vacancies Could Rise in Recession
If a recession takes hold of our economy, as many analysts expect, vacancies could begin to rise in the next one or two quarters as absorption cools and the construction pipeline continues to deliver new product.
According to a market report by Santa Ana, CA-based Grubb & Ellis Co. Senior Vice President Bob Bach, decelerating consumer spending might dampen retail leasing activity, layoffs could push net absorption of apartments and office space into the red, and falling imports could reduce tenant and owner-user demand for warehouse and distribution space.
Tile Roofing Institute Offers Certification Programs
Certification programs about broad-based tile roofing practices and techniques that impact estimating, planning, and execution of commercial projects are now offered by the Chicago-based Tile Roofing Institute (TRI).
The programs, slated as two 1-day programs, give building and design professionals the opportunity for training and certification regarding all aspects of tile roofing, including installation, market information, design features and benefits, materials specifications, code regulations, estimating, ordering, and improved management of roof tile jobs. To look at the calendar of training and certification opportunities, go to (www.tileroofing.org).
RCMA Forms Sustainable Roofing Committee
A committee that focuses on the environmental benefits of roof coatings has been formed by the Washington, D.C.-based Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA).
"Roof coatings are too often underemphasized in the general discussion of green buildings," says Brian Anthony, newly elected president of RCMA, "but allowing for a roof coating system has a major impact on the environment over the lifetime of a building. Coatings can extend roof system lifetimes indefinitely, so their importance to sustainability is obvious."
Initial goals of the committee include identifying and developing sustainability criteria related to cool roof coatings, performing life-cycle cost analysis and creating tools for evaluating options, and disseminating findings from the committee for the benefit and education of roofing, specifying, and regulatory professionals.
For more information, visit (www.roofcoatings.org).
Hotel Continues Energy-Conservation Efforts
By replacing every lamp in its hotel with ENERGY STAR® compact fluorescent bulbs, the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Ithaca, NY, is helping protect land, air, and water resources.
Homewood Suites replaced 1,300 lamps in 91 suites. Also, in guestrooms and public spaces, the hotel has taken many steps to conserve energy, including the installation of intuitive, programmable, energy-saving thermostats. Only ENERGY STAR appliances are used in each suite, along with water-conserving toilets and showerheads.
Because of these measures, the hotel will generate approximately 5-percent less greenhouse-gas emissions per suite and one-third less carbon dioxide. The rooms will use approximately 35-percent less energy. The hotel's efforts also include a linen conservation program, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and a recycling program.
Trophy Office Building Designed
Designs for a new office building in New York City's Plaza District have been released by Berwyn, PA-based LCOR Inc. The 17-story building at 545 Madison Avenue on the corner of 55th Street will be stripped to its frame and transformed into a Class-A "trophy" boutique office building.
Offering prime space to tenants desiring full-floor occupancy in the Plaza District, the project will include a contemporary, floor-to-ceiling glass curtainwall and the installation of state-of-the-art electrical, HVAC, and mechanical systems, with an expected LEED Gold rating. Elite design amenities and a stunning skyline will make this project stand out as the new jewel of Madison Avenue.
Improving IAQ in Relocatable Classrooms
"Relocatable Classrooms: Less Energy, Better Air," a technical brief produced by the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, summarizes research aimed at improving indoor air quality and reducing noise and energy consumption of relocatable (a.k.a. modular or portable) classrooms.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developed specifications for an improved heat-pump air-conditioning (IHPAC) system that provides a seasonal energy-efficiency rating (SEER) of 13. Field tests revealed that the SEER 13 IHPAC units are superior to the SEER 10 units currently used in relocatable classrooms because they:
- Improve indoor air quality.
- Save energy.
- Operate more quietly.
- Provide similar or better thermal comfort.
Although the study focused primarily on relocatable classroom applications, these wall-mounted units are designed to fit on any modular or portable building for both new construction and retrofit applications in most climates.
For more information, visit (www.energy.ca.gov/pier).
Florida Mixed-Use Project Undergoes Reconstruction
321 North in Plantation, FL, is a $350 million mixed-use community that is full of potential. Currently under development by Plantation's U.S. Capital Holdings LLC, 321 North is undergoing extensive demolition and reconstruction of its largely vacant, 650,000-square-foot enclosed retail mall.
The new retail section will face outward and open up onto a new main street. Open-air retail and restaurants are also in the plans, which will complement the more than 300,000 square feet of Class-A office space and approximately 600 residential units. Recently accepted into the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program, 321 North will fit seamlessly into Plantation's master plan to build an urban town center (called Plantation Midtown).
Massachusetts Medical Center Renovation Completed
The renovation and conversion of the Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH) at Quincy Medical Center in Quincy, MA, has been completed. The 20,700-square-foot, 38-bed, private-room project began in the spring of 2007 by Needham, MA-based Nauset Construction Corp.
The fast-track project included renovating and converting an entire floor within Quincy Medical Center in 2 months. Upgrades to both the electrical and HVAC systems were necessary, as were upgrades and new finishes in patient rooms and common areas. Other amenities include a new rehabilitation therapy area, a staff kitchen, administrative offices, and storage rooms.
David Longmoore, senior vice president at Radius Specialty Hospital (Quincy Medical Center's LTACH), praises the project, saying, "The upgrades and renovations that were made to Quincy Medical Center will better serve the people who work and are cared for at the facility."
Vinyl Roofing Industry Prioritizes Recycling
The Vinyl Roofing Division of the Cleveland-based Chemical Fabrics and Film Association Inc. is conducting a feasibility study to evaluate the viability of large-scale post-consumer recycling of vinyl roofing.
Jay Thomas, marketing chair of the Vinyl Roofing Division, says, "Skyrocketing raw material costs, higher landfill tipping fees, legislation to restrict disposal of construction materials, and an architectural community that demands the lightest environmental footprint that can be achieved are all leading toward the mainstreaming of post-consumer recycling and a vision of the day when specifiers call for recycling of roofs at the end of their service life." He adds that "vinyl is the only roofing material that has been demonstrated to be recyclable at the end of its life back into roofing product."
For more information, and to read the white paper titled "Avoiding the Landfill: The Recycling of Vinyl Roof Membranes," visit (www.vinylroofs.org).
‘Welcome Wall' Greets Visitors at Children's Hospital
A new interactive media "Welcome Wall" has been created to welcome children and families to the new Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA in Los Angeles. Created by Pasadena, CA-based Hunt Design, the wall is an evolving stream of photos, children's art, and video content that projects stories about the people and programs at the hospital, along with messages of hope, healing, and recovery.
Super-graphic wallpaper hugs the curved wall, filling the entry space with a timeless canvas of motion via projected imagery. The design includes two large plasma screens, three small LCD screens, and three rear-projection screens, all choreographed with two overhead motion video projectors. The technology enables UCLA to change the content at any time via video, live feed, or projection.
Daylight Harvesting= Energy Savings
Daylight harvesting using continuous dimming equipment that is automatically controlled by a photosensor can generate 30- to 40-percent savings in lighting energy consumption, significantly reducing operating costs for the building owner.
Research recently completed by Minnetonka, MN-based The Weidt Group indicates that savings from automatic daylighting control systems are often not fully realized when a building is turned over to users, and that users aren't always educated about the installed systems — when something isn't working, the system might be turned off instead of fixed.
Daylight harvesting is recommended for spaces in which users perform stationary tasks (such as offices).