Like other presenters at the annual NAHB Green Building Conference in Dallas, architects Chris Achenbach, AIA, of Zocalo Community Development, and John Binder, AIA, of Kephart Community Planning Architecture discussed design and construction techniques for creating sustainable communities, in particular multifamily complexes. But they touched on two areas that most others didn’t: parking alternatives and low-cost green products.

The Denver-based architects provided these alternatives to parking lots and garages:

  • Build the community as close to public transportation as possible 

  • Reduce parking to 1.25 spaces per unit instead of the typical 1.5 spaces 

  • Give priority parking to low-emitting vehicles 

  • Add bike storage--one rack for every car 

  • Add a bike workshop area 

  • Construct a bike cleaning station (also handy for dog washing) 

  • Set up an agreement with a rental car company so that tenants can have rental vehicles delivered to their door.

Reducing parking spots not only cuts down on vehicle use, but also slashes the developer’s expenses because a parking space costs $15,000 to $25,000, depending on if it’s in a surface lot or a covered garage, Achenbach said.
The architects also highlighted their favorite products that they said add little or no cost to the project, including some that will save residents money. They include

  • Blown-in cellulose insulation 

  •  Finger-jointed studs 

  • Thermoplastic polyolefin single-ply roofing (TPO) membranes (The presenters said that as demand increases for heat-reflective and energy-efficient systems, TPO single-ply roofing membranes provide excellent resistance to ultraviolet, ozone, and chemical exposure.) 

  • PEX pipe 

  • Cork flooring 

  • Wool carpeting (But use tiles because they are cheaper than rolls and can be easily lifted up and out for repairs, Achenbach said.) 

  • Low-VOC paints and adhesives 

  • 90%-efficient water heaters 

  • Fluorescent lighting (Higher costs can be offset by utility and other rebates.) 

  • Programmable thermostats 

  • At least 14-SEER air conditioning equipment.