Candlelight. Gas lamps. Electric light. Incandescent. Fluorescent. LED.

Dating back to antiquity, lighting has undergone a consistent evolution leading to this moment in time when LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have become the game-changing energy source.

We’d like to say sports arenas are leading the evolutionary way – or should we say lighting the way – with the 2015 Super Bowl the first to be played illuminated by LEDs.

But it’s major cities that are the frontrunners making the switch.

  • Los Angeles has installed over 140,000 LED streetlights and spent $57 million to retrofit 215,000 lights.
  • The Washington, DC Metro system began a major project to upgrade to LED lighting in 25 parking garages.
  • San Jose, CA is replacing 62,000 streetlights to LED lights including a control and monitoring system.
  • Las Vegas installed 42,000 LED streetlights and is saving $2 million a year on energy and maintenance costs.
  • Plan NYC includes replacement of all 250,000 streetlights with LEDs, predicting an 80% decrease in maintenance costs of $8 million a year and $6 million a year in energy savings.
  • London announced the largest street modernization project with plans to replace 350,000 of the 520,000 city streetlights with LED lights by 2016.
  • Both the Asian and European markets are predicted to have converted 70% of its lighting to LED by 2020.

Electric lamps have been around since the 19th century with the first LED constructed in 1961. But the small, bright light (and white) LEDs we use today are a 21st century achievement.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE) solid-state lighting is showing very significant advances. The annual energy cost savings from LEDs more than doubled in 2013 from the previous year, increasing to $1.8 billion – enough to pay the annual lighting electricity bill for over 14 million U.S. homes.
By 2025, at a price of $0.10/kilowatt-hour, the DOE found solid-state lighting technology offers the potential to save $21.7 billion annually.
Property owners are now well versed on the long-term cost savings of LED lighting as well as lower replacement and maintenance costs and savings on cooling costs.Why then is not every commercial building converting to LED lighting?

The answer is money.

While predictions are that solid-state lighting will be the dominant lighting technology within the next decade and commercial property owners can see the competitive advantage, they must still be able and willing to afford or finance hundreds of thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

It’s a large pill to swallow but with its numerous cost saving benefits and the cost of LEDs decreasing, a LED lighting retrofit can provide a ROI in a few years.
Thus, the future of LED is – dare we say? – bright.

Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Yes, I am well aware this is New York City where almost everything is “luxury” or at least priced like it. But when we touch upon issues like climate change, air quality, healthier living and economic disparity, for New York to have a sustainable future, the “luxury” of green building cannot be limited to high end residential developments and Class A office buildings.

The difficulties of building new construction lower income housing are well documented. Government and private sector intentions are good. Land and labor costs are astronomical. Rents continue to rise while incomes fail to keep pace. But lower income shouldn’t mean that the massive benefits of lower energy, better air quality, lower utilities costs, enhanced health and the creation of a greater sense of community, deserves no attention.

Mayor De Blasio has called for 2000,000 new or preserved units just for the poor and middle class in his first term.

Brooklyn may now be the center of the hip universe but, even so, Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and Greenpoint will be where 75% of the 3,069 newly constructed affordable units will be located according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

But let’s look at The Bronx where Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently overseeing the Bronx program funded with $2.5 million to retrofit apartment buildings with 50 or more units. These retrofits will bring direct energy savings to those most in need, help avert future rent increases, improve conditions and fuel economic activity.

In the past decade, the Bronx has been committed to leading the way in development of affordable multifamily green housing. Consider Arbor House, state-of-the-art, affordable green housing located at 770 East 166th Street. The project’s cost of $37.7 million was a part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Housing Marketplace Plan, a multibillion dollar effort to finance 165,000 affordable housing units for half a million New Yorkers by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

Among Arbor House’s green features are direct drive elevators that use considerably less horsepower than conventional elevators; Energy Star LED and CFL fixtures; Energy Star kitchen appliances; and nest “learning” programmable thermostats with occupancy sensors. But its most visible and imaginative green amenity is a 10,000 SF fully integrated rooftop farm. Using water harvested from the roof, the garden provides fresh vegetables to building residents and the community. It’s inspirational urban farming.

Via Verde/The Green Way in the Bronx is the winning response to the New Housing New York Legacy Competition, providing 151 low-income rental apartments and 71 middle-income co-ops.

Given the crime rates throughout the area’s history, the South Bronx may be a tough neighborhood to live in, but developments such as Via Verde are helping residents build a healthier, safer community. The most substantial improvement made with the construction of Via Verde compared to most buildings in the Bronx is its LEED certification Gold rating.

All progress often starts with a simple concept. In the case of affordable green building, those concepts include not only reduced living costs, but also the opportunity to use housing as a stimulus for healthier, safer, more community-involved living that will contribute to the multi-cultural diversity that defines our city.

Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

With everything being written about going green in commercial office buildings, it’s not surprising that people come away with the impression that it costs. A lot. True that major retrofits, renovations, a complete changeover to LED lighting and putting in a green roof are all expensive. But there are ways to cut back on energy and go greener without major investment

Turn It Off:

“It” can be a light that isn’t truly necessary; lights used intermittently such as those in rest rooms; a computer not being used. At night, all electronics should be turned off including office copiers
if feasible.

Crank It Up:

There’s energy savings with only a few points of upward change in AC setting. To add to comfort, consider making casual Fridays on other days. Make the upward change one small degree at a time. You’ll reach the resistance point but the point is to find that point.

Change It Out:

Changing out a light bulb to a longer-lasting LED light can save considerable energy over time, reduce maintenance and keep areas cooler as LED lights don’t diffuse heat as much as other light sources. While retrofitting a whole building might be well beyond the operating budget, individual lamps are another thing all together. Building managers can consider converting to LED lighting one area at a time.

Paint it White:

In this case, we’re referring to the roof. Creating a green roof is an extensive and expensive undertaking as well as requiring long-term maintenance. Lacking that budget or commitment, the simplest way to save energy is to paint the roof with a reflecting coat of white to keep the building cooler.

Tune It Up:

Whether individual office or entire building, make sure all equipment and systems are working at peak performance. Seal leaks. Calibrate thermostats. Insulate water tanks. Change filters.

Keep It Clear:

Don’t block vents with paper, files, clothing or other office supplies. You use 25% more energy when vents are blocked.

Use It Wisely:

Energy costs are high so conserve what you can. Insulating windows, pulling drapes and shutting blinds can keep AC in and energy costs down.

Think Smaller:

A laptop is more energy efficient than a full size computer and monitor, drawing 15-25 vs. 150 watts. Ink jet printers use less energy than even some of the new energy-efficient laser printers. A LED task light will take up less space, use less energy and provide focused light in place of overhead lighting (where you can consider shutting down every third or fourth light.)

Be Literal:

Adding live plants to the lobby, corridors and offices will serve to clean surrounding air, reduce carbon monoxide and add oxygen. Use plants in front of glass windows to create a shading effect and control solar heat gain. They also reduce dust, bacteria and mold.

Statistics show that commercial office buildings squander 30% of energy consumed. The above tips are, for the most part, easy to implement and can make inroads into that double digit waste.

Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

You know the light bulb that clicks on above a cartoon character’s head?

That “ah ha” moment is an epiphany, a quantum leap of understanding. Suddenly there’s absolute realization that you need to quit your Wall Street job to become a chef or move to Montana to raise a crop of dental floss.

There aren’t many epiphanies that occur in commercial real estate – there aren’t many epiphanies that occur ever – but, as it happens, I happened to have one.

A dozen years ago, I was appraising a newly built building in Battery Park City for the construction loan takeout. But not just any building. It was the very first green residential multifamily building in the United States.

It was groundbreaking with green features that barely existed elsewhere. When it was completed in 2003, the industry still considered green building and sustainability to be economically unfeasible, or at least a major economic challenge. Back then, the U.S. Green Building Council was still explaining what a green building even was.

Thus when the Albanese Development Corp announced they were building The Solaire, the response was a resounding “let’s wait and see” or perhaps even, “better them than me.”

But for me, being in the recently leased-up The Solaire was a revelation. I could breathe noticeably better. I had a marked sense of well being. I was to learn that the indoor air was always filtered and monitored, right down to whether to add humidity or dehumidify. A building employee told me about a little boy with asthma who lived there who went on a school break to Disney World with his mother and asked if they could come back early because he could breathe better at home.

At that moment, in that building, I saw the future of real estate and it was going to be green. Certainly not immediately. But eventually. As an appraiser, it set my course for becoming the first (and still only) LEED BC+D commercial real estate appraiser in New York City.

Now, of course, all of us understand, encourage, embrace and support green buildings. But I keep going back to that little boy who knew, way back when, that while Disney might be the happiest place on earth, a green home was the healthiest.

Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services