By Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE, IOM
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Association of Realtors
There has never been a better time for real estate professionals to learn how to integrate green thinking into their business models. Chicago is one of the leading cities in the nation when it comes to thinking green, with at least 40 LEED-certified buildings, the innovative Chicago Green Roofs program, this month’s Chicago Green Homes Fair and a number of other important environmental initiatives.
We recently interviewed architect Chris Turley, who is responsible for converting historic Chicago bungalows into green homes. He told us green living isn’t always costly. In fact, because of their size, bungalows are “not only more cost efficient, but more environmentally efficient,” Turley says. “As you increase a property’s square footage, the energy costs increase exponentially.” However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that larger projects are financially out of the realm of possibility, in fact, investing in green concepts could actually wind up saving homeowners money — a lot of money.
Owners of existing buildings in downtown Chicago can benefit from a “GRIF TIF” from the Green Roof Improvement Fund, which covers up to 50 percent or $100,000 (whichever is greater) of the costs of installing a green roof, or a “veneer of landscape over a traditional roof” according to Chicago Green Roofs. Green roofs lower the surface temperature of a building’s roof, which helps cut energy costs. Additionally, green roofs help the environment by reducing pollution and lowering the surrounding air temperature.
Real estate agents who worry about the rising price of gas and their carbon footprint when driving clients to listings can take advantage of the Green Rewards program, sponsored by the Illinois Treasurer’s Office. This program gives Illinois residents who purchase a hybrid vehicle a $1,000 rebate. On top of the money you’ll save on fuel and the $1,000 you’ll get back, you will be burning less gasoline, thus contributing to improved air quality and lower emissions.
Both Illinois and the federal government offer rebates for homeowners who use solar energy to generate electricity, to the tune of up to $10,000 from the state and $2,000 from the federal government. According to David Julius, owner of Sunburst Solar Energy, which designs and installs photovoltaic systems, the savings don’t stop there. “It’s like a hedge of rising energy costs,” Julius says. “You’re paying for the system and installation, and that’s it.”
Many people have misconceptions about solar energy, fearing that they won’t be able to turn on their television or dry their hair on cloudy days, but Julius explains that this is simply not true. Through a process called “net metering,” in addition to your solar energy system, you are linked in to your local utility meter, which would be ComEd in Chicago. On days when you do not use up all of the energy you’ve generated, you give your “leftovers” to ComEd in the form of credits. On days when you need extra energy, ComEd gives you back energy. Chicago’s winters won’t interfere with your energy production either, as the systems are the most efficient on cold, sunny days.
As you can see, going green is rewarding in more ways than one. As Realtors, we work to serve our communities and make Chicago a better place to live. Through environmentally-friendly actions, initiatives and investments, we are helping to improve the quality of life in Chicago. But it certainly doesn’t hurt, in these tough economic times, to do so without breaking the bank. I’m thankful that we live in a city where we don’t have to choose between living green and staying within our economic means.
THE CHICAGO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (CAR), “THE VOICE FOR REAL ESTATE IN CHICAGO” SINCE 1883, REPRESENTS THE BUSINESS INTERESTS OF MORE THAN 16,000 REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS IN CHICAGOLAND. CAR IS LED BY A VOLUNTARY BOARD OF DIRECTORS, ELECTED BY THE MEMBERSHIP, WHO WORKS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH A PROFESSIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF.
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