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LEED for Homes: Kendrick Place and Olympia Place, Amherst, MA

Green Building is not new, some builders in Vermont claim to have been "doing it since the 70s, just not calling it green", but about 20 years ago the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-governmental, non-profit organization, set out to codify what makes a building green. They decided to list the attributes of a green building, with thorough explanations, and then create an incentive system for rewarding projects that attain high levels of sustainability, or, 'green'. Through that process, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System was born. Over time, a number of variations on LEED were developed to fit the different building types and award different levels of ‘green’. In 2008 LEED for Homes (1-3 stories) was launched, with LEED for Homes Mid-Rise (4 - 12) quickly following. LEED offers 4 levels of ‘green’:  Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. A good number of forward-thinking developers and builders of housing jumped on-board right away and LEED for Homes has since emerged as the high-water mark of Green Building rating systems for Residential Building. LEED is now endorsed by government entities like the City of Boston BRA (Boston Redevelopment Authority) and the MA State Governor's office. For projects requesting state funding, or needing city zoning approval, demonstrating the ability to become LEED Certified (but, stopping short of actually doing so) is a specific requirement.
 
Archipelago Investments, LLC, is no stranger to green building either, having been one of those early adopters with their award-winning Boltwood Place in Amherst built in 2012. Kyle Wilson of Archipelago saw the value in the rigorous process of certifying a project with third-party oversight. "It was like having another set of eyes on my project ensuring all best practices were designed and delivered." Today’s renters are very much tuned in to Green Building, and sustainability in general, and understand the higher quality delivered in a LEED building. Either way, better building is a trend many want to be a part of. 
 
Archipelago is now developing several new projects which will deliver high quality LEED residential to the Amherst market. Cutler Associates, with extensive experience in guiding LEED projects, has been selected as the design-builder. Kendrick Place, at the intersection of East Pleasant Street and Triangle, is a 36-unit, 5-story building in Downtown Amherst within sight of UMass and Amherst College campuses. Targeting LEED Gold, Kendrick is an example of a project which is going well beyond what the building code requires it to do, to the benefit of the community and the building occupants. The building will use over 25% less energy than a similar code-built structure, will feature a white roof to minimize heat gain, will have each one of its units tested and verified by a third-party for air-tightness and ventilation system performance, and will include an Owner's Manual for each occupant to ensure that they understand why the green measures were included in their building and how to maintain them. These features, as well as a list of other green building best-practices, are in addition to meeting a list of 18 mandatory "Prerequisites" - standard high-performance building benchmarks which are required for certification.
 
The certification allows apartment shoppers to seek out better places to live. This is really the point of LEED, to introduce to the market a mechanism for the buyer to 'tell' the builder that they value the higher quality demanded by LEED.  Status quo dictates that builders/developers meet the minimum regulations and then tell a story to explain their completed project. LEED set out to be the 'disruptive technology' and offer a builder/developer a way to 'say' to their prospective market:  "Hey, if I build it, will you come?" Well, it has proven successful to the handful of developers who have embraced the notion, like Archipelago. LEED projects can cost 3% - 8% more to build to the various certification levels, and demand rents to cover this premium.
 
Following on Kendrick Place will be Olympia Place, a 72-unit 5-story, uniquely designed, jewel of a building just up the street. These two high-performance projects will introduce 108 new low-impact, premium quality, energy efficient, comfort-oriented apartments to the 5-college market, a market that values sustainability.
 
With any new endeavor, there is a need for some who will see the promise before it can be proven. Archipelago has been among those ranks. The nice return on the investment for Archipelago has been three-fold:  they will have the legacy of building some of the best new housing in the Amherst market, their buildings will consume far less than their peers, and their bottom line will reward them for the effort.