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[The Hall Monitor] Green = Red, White and Blue

Todd Huttunen began appraising more than 20 years ago with a few years off in between to pursue a career in cabinet making. He relegated that to hobby status and is currently an appraiser in an assessor’s office. His best friend dubbed him The Hall Monitor because of his rigidity and respect for rules. He offers Soapbox readers tongue-in-groove insight on appraisal issues. This week Todd colors the green issue, well, green. …Jonathan Miller


The cover of the New York Times Magazine April 15, 2007 issue is captioned “The Greening of Geopolitics” [1] How can America regain its international stature? By taking the lead in alternative energy and environmentalism.” The article was written by the noted Times columnist and author, Thomas L. Friedman and he begins ‘One day Iraq, our post-9/11 trauma and the divisiveness of the Bush years will all be behind us and America will need, and want, to get its groove back. We will need to find a way to reknit America at home, reconnect America abroad and restore America to its natural place in the global order as the beacon of progress, hope and inspiration. I have an idea how. It’s called “green”.’ Friedman’s motto: “Green is the new red, white and blue”.

The whole world, it seems, is going green. I’m not just talking Al Gore and an academy award for “An Inconvenient Truth”. Even Wal-Mart [2] (who no one accuses of being a “tree-hugging liberal”), is strutting its “green” stuff. Solar energy is HOT. We’ve woken up to the fact that we’re much better off blocking the sun from our cancer prone skin and let it instead be soaked up by those funny looking collection panels up on the roof.

In the construction industry, “green” is making great strides, though much more quickly in commercial buildings than in single family houses. But this is to be expected when (costly) new technologies are emerging. Large scale projects have a better chance of achieving some economy of scale. Check out the websites for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED [3] and the recently reconstructed 7 World Trade Center [4] for examples of the latest energy saving features.

It may be happening at a slower pace with regard to single family houses, but it seems only a matter of time before the move toward “green” will be reflected in all new dwellings. There was a case in the news recently involving a newly built house in the leafy, affluent New York suburb of Scarsdale. It’s not easy being green [5] when the neighbors are offended and they are supported by the Board of Architectural Review. Those of you who are unfamiliar with a local B.A.R. should count yourselves as lucky. The power they wield, arbitrary and capricious, is astounding. The good news for the couple who are building their house in Scarsdale is that they finally got approval for their solar panels (which, by the way, are on the back of the house and not visible from the street).

My prediction is that the next residential building boom will incorporate all the latest energy saving technology. Houses in the future will be dramatically different from those of today. They’ll be smaller and “Smarter” [6]. Big, ugly boxes, what some call McMansions, houses with lots of space but no soul, will not age gracefully. Eventually, their owners will tire of dragging the thirty foot extension ladder into the foyer just so they can change a light bulb. The key phrase in my prediction (of such a radical change in houses) is the “next residential building boom”, because I haven’t said when I think that will occur. Real estate tends to run in cycles. The most recent boom was from 1998 2005. When will the next one start? Don’t hold your breath, but when it does it’ll be “green”, the next red, white and blue.