A Look at Austin's Green Initiatives

ABoR Global Volunteers and Saulo Santos, ABoR Facilities Engineer (second from left) examine the 333 solar panels on the roof of ABoR headquarters.

Being green is a standard component of building practices in many parts of the world, and it's a rapidly growing preference among consumers and builders domestically, as well. Ever wondered what Austin is doing on the sustainability front? During this summer’s Green Week, we had a chance to take a closer look at four examples of how our “weird” city is embracing green building practices and sustainability during a private tour around the city, organized by ABoR Global Liaison, Special Programs Lead Christine Wren.

ABoR Headquarters

Our building, designed by architect Peter Pfiefer and completed in 2014, is LEED Gold Certified. That said, our new Facilities Engineer, Saulo Santos, aims to make the building LEED Platinum Certified. The building uses energy recovery ventilators that provides fresh air that gets circulated in our auditoriums, member lounge, and the rest of the building. On the rooftop, we have 333 solar panels that produce 13,600 kilowatts of energy! And speaking of energy, Santos has saved us a lot of it by providing a schedule for our HVAC system and lighting. What many people don’t know is that the foundation of our building provides water filtration. All of the water that trickles from the street past the building gets filtered through sand and limestone rock before it hits the valley.

Whisper Valley

When it comes to providing housing for those who are environmentally conscious, East Austin master-planned community, Whisper Valley, has got it going on. Its developer is Taurus Investments Holdings, LLC—and Douglas Gilliland (pictured right), Managing Director of Taurus of Texas Holdings LP, says the company’s main mission is to educate people about sustainability. “It’s easier for a developer to create change by prescribing the program and creating uniformity.” For starter homes priced at 250+, homeowners can expect utility bills to be around $10 a month, thanks to a combination of geothermal energy (provided by a GeoGrid), solar panels, and energy efficient appliances. Other perks of living at Whisper Valley include having access to smart home technology and high-speed internet, an organic farm, and educational classes at the Discovery Center (think healthy cooking and DIY cleaning products). Whisper Valley is currently in phase two and they intent to have seven “villages” connected to hike and bike trails, gardens, and town centers.

Community First! Village
Community First! Village is not your typical affordable housing development. Designed to provide shelter and community for our chronically homeless population, the master-planned development has made a lot of news recently when it partnered with ICON to create 3-D printed homes. Having already broken the mold of what a homeless community looks like, the privately-funded village has been open to collaborating with creatives companies that want to debut their technology. Vice President of Texas Hemp Industries Association and ABoR member Henry Valles (pictured right) is collaborating with Community First! Village to show Austin’s first tiny hemp home built with Hempcrete. Why hemp? Hemp building materials are non-toxic, mold-resistant, pest-resistant, fire-resistant, and carbon negative. In other words, you get a lot of bang for your buck—especially as these materials are becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible as the US hemp industry continues to grow.

Pecan Street Inc.

Tucked away in Mueller’s neighborhood, Pecan Street Inc. is researching technology, behavior, and how the two interact. Essentially, it’s helping the world’s innovators and entrepreneurs make smarter decisions to protect our natural resources and climate by sharing its data on consumer energy and water consumption behavior, among other things. Currently, it has about a thousand homes in that participate in research for its database—and it’s been able to determine, for example, the most efficient placement of solar panels on your home (the answer is West). The firm also invented a practical device that measures water meters since water meters don’t account for variable behaviors. By clipping it on to your meter, it detects leaks that a meter would not catch. They work so well Austin Water has purchased these and has put them on their meters.

Our Green Week tour rolled into a two-day NAR Green Designation that provided advanced training in green building and sustainable business practices so our green-minded members could better understand and successfully market properties with green features. Interested in getting involved with ABoR Global? Join the ABoR Global Facebook group to learn about upcoming news and events, and come out for our last Global Lunch and Learn with Jefre Outlaw, Globetrotting, Expat Life and Selling Green Cards, this Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at ABoR headquarters.

This is Part II in a series on ABoR Global. Learn more about the Global Business Alliance Network here.


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