Good News for Mother Nature:
South Florida Is Finally Going Green
By Jill Patterson
Almost 300 people a day move to the Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beaches South Florida area. That’s about a half a million people in the last five years. As we are growing and developing, what are we doing to protect the natural beauty that surrounds us, which unarguably is South Florida’s greatest asset?
Meet the Green LEED Guru
Jason Biondi has been responsible for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of many buildings in South Florida since 2006. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Jason studied at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Sustainability. In 2009, Jason founded the Energy Cost Solutions Group, a business which promotes high performance, sustainable, new construction and existing buildings through energy savings, minimizing environmental impacts of construction, best practices for operations and maintenance, and improving indoor environmental conditions.
Jason is extremely busy working with South Florida developers to help them fulfill their sustainability needs and new requirements. In April, Miami Beach just passed an ordinance requiring all new buildings over 7,000 sf to be LEED Gold. But Jason is also a licensed realtor with Opulence International Realty because he believes that when people
better understand the impacts of the built environment on occupant health, lifestyle and business, they are more informed and make wiser real estate decisions. OIR’s Broker, Jill Patterson, sat down with Jason to talk about sustainability in South Florida.
OIR: What are some benefits to owners who consider sustainability in their homes or businesses, and in their real estate decisions?
JB: The idea is that you can create a place that considers both the health of the people inside of it and the health of the environment around it, as well as a sense of community. If you can bake those elements into a real estate deal, you get much further down the road toward your goals for investment, happiness and quality of life than if these ideas are an afterthought.
The amount of time people spend indoors has increased tremendously, so when we’re creating that environment, we need think about the things that make people feel good and want to stay there; a beautiful view, a work of art. We ask what inspires people and encourages healthier activities. Then, there are basic things we examine, like air quality, exposure to chemicals, building orientation, and the types of materials and design aesthetics that are used. In addition, we look at the quality of the drinking water, as well as the control you have over your comfort. Can you create different atmospheres inside the building that resemble the course of the sun through the sky or the natural circadian rhythms that are tied to your health and wellness.
OIR: Why has South Florida lagged behind the rest of the world in its attention to sustainability?
JB: I think there are three main reasons. One, because energy is cheap, so simple payback on energy savings is difficult. Two, because we’re a fairly transient community, and to really get into sustainability, it helps to have a sense of place. Finally, speculative development creates another layer of challenges. On the positive side is the public. They’re starting to understand the nomenclature of green building, the criteria that make buildings better and more valuable, as well as the impacts buildings have on people and nature.
There’s a lot of great designers and contractors in South Florida, so that makes it exciting because there’s not really one right way to do it. Sustainability is intended to engage innovation and creativity. Ten years ago, nobody in South Florida had mandatory green building ordinances. Now many municipalities have adopted green building ordinances, Miami 21 being the most robust, and now Miami Beach has just signed on.
OIR: What can homeowners do to conserve energy and live healthier?
JB: Heaps of stuff. The first thing you can do is compost and recycle. You basically just need three bins in your house: One for compost, one for recycling, one for waste, and that will dramatically reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.
Air filtration: Changing your air filters to MERV 13 or higher (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) helps filter out bacteria, mold, heavy hitters for illness.
Install a water filter or get your water tested. Home Depot will send a sample of water, sink or fridge, for testing and then send you a free report on how healthy or unhealthy your water is. Then you can decide whether you want to use a reverse osmosis water filter.
Another big area is the proper flow of storm water and sustainable landscaping. We live in a swampy, salty, hot kind of place, but now we’re learning to embrace all that instead of trying to change the environment to accommodate us. The fact is, access to information is greater than ever, people are smarter than ever, we are growing faster than ever, and that makes for exciting opportunities for innovation.