The growing interest in green and sustainable development signals that it is getting closer to the point at which “it is no longer the exception but an accepted community building practice,” according to Urban Land Institute Chairman Harry H. Frampton III.

Frampton, managing partner of East West Partners in Beaver Creek, Colo., discussed the need to build on the momentum of the green and sustainable building movement during a keynote address in Atlanta at “Greenprints 2004: Sustainable Communities by Design,” a green design and construction conference co-hosted by the Southface Energy Institute and the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. ULI Atlanta was a partner in planning the program.

“ULI must devote more resources to research and education on green building–what works and what doesn’t. We have a responsibility to raise awareness of the benefits, debunk some of the myths and provide the proof of success to make it more widely accepted,” he said. Frampton compared ULI’s efforts on promoting green and sustainable development to its previous work in advancing smart growth. Just as ULI has “helped smart growth gain enough traction to move into the mainstream,” the institute can move environmentally conscious techniques closer to the tipping point, Frampton said.

However, despite some advances, he cautioned that the green movement still faces much skepticism. “As is the case with any alternative approach to land use, there are a lot of preconceived notions to overcome…Many in the land use industry–investors and developers–need a lot of justification to embrace change. They need very little justification to keep doing things the same way,” Frampton noted.

The key to gaining more market acceptance for green and sustainable development is providing more information that makes the business case for adopting the approach, he explained. In addition to being widely discussed at ULI’s numerous conferences, the topic is being analyzed from a business standpoint in an upcoming book being published by ULI. This publication follows a booklet sponsored last year by ULI and the U.S. Green Building Council, which lists 10 reasons that green building practices make sound business sense. “The point is, if altruism isn’t enough to hook you, look at green practices from a pragmatic view,” Frampton said.

To advance ULI’s program of work in green and sustainable development, the institute will be adding a senior resident fellow to its staff–the Charles Fraser Senior Resident Fellow for Sustainable Development. The position is named for the legendary developer of Hilton Head, S.C., who, more than 40 years ago, incorporated environmentally conscious building techniques throughout his developments on the island. The addition of this fellow will enhance ULI’s ability to integrate sustainability as a vital part of all aspects of community building, Frampton said.

Frampton, who worked for Fraser more than 30 years ago, credits his former employer and mentor with instilling in him a lasting commitment to green and sustainable development. He recounted East West Partners’ experience in attempting to achieve the LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the entire community of Tahoe Mountain Resorts, a development under construction in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Initially, the company’s consultants estimated that building to LEED guidelines would raise costs as much as 40 percent, but ultimately, the increase was far lower – around 2 percent, Frampton said.

According to Frampton, East West Partners was committed to the effort for three reasons: 1) consumer attraction to the green design and energy-saving features; 2) ability to expedite the approval process and gain support from the environmental community; and 3) it was simply “the right thing” to do. “As land use professionals, we are constantly faced with a choice of providing the ordinary or the extraordinary, and to me, choosing green and sustainable is a choice for the extraordinary,” he said.

Frampton noted that a growing number of “non-traditional” households–including both young professionals and empty nesters–are driving demand for more green and sustainable development, particularly in the residential sector. He cited research from marketing consulting firm American Lives Inc., which characterizes some of these households as “cultural creatives” who are more environmentally sensitive, more educated and more involved in culture and the arts. “They don’t want monument houses…they view nature as sacred, so a home that incorporates green and sustainable building techniques has far greater value to them than a showplace,” Frampton said.

In addition to consumers, the public sector and universities are growing increasingly interested in environmentally conscious buildings, he noted. With this push of the market, the development community “will come around,” albeit with some initial reluctance, Frampton said.

“As with smart growth, green and sustainable development involves a continuous education process, and moving it to the mainstream will require an unwavering commitment by those of us who are already sold on its value…I can envision a time when not doing it will be unthinkable,” he said.

The Urban Land Institute is a nonprofit education and research institute with more than 20,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

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