The first residential high-rise certified eco-friendly by the Florida Green Building Coalition is now home to low-income renters in Fort Lauderdale.
Green and affordable rentals? There’s no contradiction, say developers from the nonprofit Reliance Housing Foundation of Asheville, N.C., who joined with the Broward County Housing Authority, Facchina Construction and green-building advisers Trifecta Construction Solutions of Fort Myers on the project.
“Some green features aren’t more expensive … and with rentals, you’re not asking a buyer to take in any extra cost ([rom green features] all in one pass,” said Jeff Shetterly, real estate development manager for the foundation. “Green just makes the building better long-term, so it’s a no-brainer.”
Progresso Point, at 619 N. Andrews Ave., offers 76 studio and one-bedroom apartments with energy- and water-saving features often found only in deluxe buildings: tankless heaters, dual-flush toilets and energy-star appliances. Those features make special sense for affordable housing because they keep utility costs down for renters, Shetterley said.
By using more durable materials, green buildings also cut maintenance costs, keeping homes affordable, said Suzanne Cooke, executive director of the Florida Green Building Coalition.
“And with improved indoor air quality, hopefully they reduce spending on health problems such as asthma or respiratory ailments,” Cooke said.
Forty-five Boynton Beach homes in the 6748 Old Farm Trail development and a 50-unit affordable housing venture in Key West are among those earning certification. The coalition so far has certified almost 5,000 projects statewide, including more than 4,600 homes, each three stories or fewer.
Certifying the high-rise as eco-friendly is an 11-year-old nonprofit group based in Tallahassee that uses standards similar to those of the U.S. Green Building Council and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system. But the coalition’s system is specifically tailored to Florida’s hot and humid climate — for example, prioritizing windows that keep heat out, not in. It also addresses problems common in the subtropics, such as mold, termites, hurricanes and floods, Cooke said.
Shetterly said certification from the Florida group makes financial sense, too: It’s cheaper than LEED.
Cooke said costs to build green homes used to run 3 percent to 5 percent more than traditional construction but have been falling for two main reasons. More builders are familiar with green practices and can perform procedures more efficiently, and more green materials are available, driving down their costs.
Three other high-rise buildings are in line for coalition certification, she said.
Broward authorities say the Progresso Point building in Flagler Village cost $20.9 million to develop. Sixteen units are set aside for households earning less than $16,044 a year, with rents of $302 and $326 a month. Sixty units are for those earning less than $34,380, with rents of $725 and $779 a month.
One tenant already benefiting is Aaron Dames, 18, who aged out of the foster care system and now lives independently. His first electric bill was $24.63 for one month, probably less than half what it might cost for a similar apartment without the energy-saving features.