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Dishwasher Debate: Scrape, or Rinse?

Ask a group of people if it’s best to rinse – or simply scrape — the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, and you’re likely to get a discussion worthy of the U.N. Council on Foreign Affairs.

For the final word, we consulted the American Council for an Energy Efficient America.  That group’s advice – whether you’re buying a new dishwasher or using an existing one —  is as follows:

  • Avoid Hand-Washing

Studies are showing more and more that, when used to maximize energy-saving features, modern dishwashers can outperform all but the most frugal hand washers.

  • Scrape, Don’t Rinse

Studies show that most people pre-rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, even though dishwashers purchased within the last 5–10 years do a superb job of cleaning even heavily soiled dishes. If you find you must rinse dishes first, get in the habit of using cold water.

  • Follow Manufacturer Instructions

Completely fill the racks to optimize water and energy use, but allow proper water circulation for adequate cleaning.

  • Wash Only Full Loads

The dishwasher uses the same amount of water whether it’s half-full or completely full, so nothing will save more energy than waiting to run your dishwasher. If you find that it takes a day or two to get a full load, use the rinse and hold feature common on newer models. This will prevent build up of dried-on food while saving time and water compared to pre-rinsing each item. The rinse feature typically uses only 1 to 2 gallons of water.

  • Use Energy-Saving Cycle Options

Pay attention to the cycle options on your dishwasher and select the cycle that requires the least amount of energy for the job. Use the no-heat air-dry feature on your dishwasher if it has one.

  • Turn Down the Water Heater Temperature

Since the early 1990s, most dishwashers in the U.S. have been sold with built-in heaters to boost water temperature to 140–145 degrees, the temperature recommended by manufacturers for optimum dishwashing performance. The advantage to the booster heater is that you can turn down your water heater thermostat to 120 dergees (typically half-way between the “medium” and “low” settings).

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Is Micro the Next Green Thing?

by Adelaide Grady

When I was young and blindly idealistic, I was given a copy of The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices. This relatively brief book, written by the Union of Concerned Scientists, laid out the handful of really big things about our lifestyle that are having the most detrimental effect on the environmental condition of the planet. I call it a relatively brief book because in comparison to other earth-saving instruction manuals on the market at the time and today, a handful of things was and is pretty revolutionary. This book argued, among other things, that the activists’ mission a la mode – paper vs. plastic? Cloth diapers vs. disposable? – mattered little in the face of the really big things. My naïve brain told me: just spread the word about this amazing book! Just a few things everybody can do to save the earth?! How easy is that?!

The problem was and continues to be that we, as hardworking, successful, deserving Americans, can’t stomach the kind of sacrifice it takes to do these really big things. We want to move up in the world. But changing the world is not just about making thoughtful substitutions for everyday conveniences while we climb the ladder of life. It’s about completely revising the way we live and move up through life. We must live in smaller homes closer to work, drive more fuel-efficient vehicles or skip driving at all, and eat less meat.

Let’s leave the question of Saturday night’s porterhouse steak to the culinary blogs. The other two big ones – where we live and how we get to work – seem like questions a real estate developer should grapple with. After all, it’s the developers who create the built world we live in, right? If a conscientious developer knew how important smaller homes closer to business hubs and public transit were to the environment, surely (s)he would create more of them, right? The truth, of course, is that demand drives development. We, as consumers, are the creators of the built world we live in. The developers just enable it.

But every so often government steps in to impose change on this codependent relationship. One recent imposition has been micro units. The most progressive cities in the country are telling developers: if you want to build here, in the heart of things, where people want to be, you have to build small. Really small. Micro seems to be the solution to all of the stakeholders’ concerns. Micro units are more affordable (though not, of course, on a per-square-foot basis), they put less stress on the city’s infrastructure, they increase density, they offer more revenue per square foot, etc. Finally, my 22-year old self is shouting, finally real change is coming!

I do think micro units are a good thing for cities. And I do think that, despite the conflict between the requirements of accessibility codes and the need to maximize space in tiny units (the smallest legal full bathroom we’ve been able to design is about 60 square feet which, in a 450 square foot apartment, is over 12% of your space), people will rent these units. But I don’t necessarily think they’re a green revolution. Why? Because I don’t believe they’ll instigate a revision in the way we move up. Young professionals who live in cities are generally living in multi-bedroom apartments with multiple roommates. They live this way for however long they need to until they can afford not to and then they live alone. More affordable single-person units will enable young professionals to live alone sooner, which will actually result in an overall increase in environmental impact. Now, instead of sharing your refrigerator and its energy consumption with your roommates, you have your own refrigerator. I lived in an 800 square foot apartment with three roommates when I was 25. 450 square feet all to myself would have felt like a luxury.

The environmental benefits will come if and when people living in larger spaces choose to live in smaller ones. Will the allure of urban living be enough to overcome the drive to move up?

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Meet The Team: Angelo Antidormi

Angelo Antidormi

Angelo Antidormi looking right at home in Italy. A Development Analyst for Wood Partners in our Boston office, Angelo loves everything Italian from the food to Sardinia to espresso. His first job was even at an Italian restaurant – Bertucci’s! Find out more…

– Fantasy career: Owner or GM of a pro sports team

– Favorite ethnic cuisine: Italian

– Most exotic travel experience: Sardinia

– Starbucks order: Triple Shot of Espresso over Ice

– Most played song on iPod: Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying”

– What you like most about your work: Exposure to many different deals and learning more about multifamily development

– Favorite weekend activity: Hanging out at the beach or pool

– Most productive time of day: Afternoon

– Your first job: Porter at Bertucci’s Restaurant

– A business tool you can’t live without: Microsoft Office

– Next travel destination: Italy

– Words you live by: “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

– First thing you do when you get to the office: Grab a coffee

– Your favorite guilty pleasure: Fantasy Football

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Pedal power: Bicycles on a roll in big cities

With gasoline prices hitting $4.40 in parts of California and averaging $3.85 across the nation this October, there may never be a better time to bike to work or school.

But for those who need more persuading, consider this: every 6 miles biked instead of driven save 3.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and 9 cents in health care costs, according to Danish studies.

European cities — in particular Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris and Berlin — have long been bicycle friendly. In Copenhagen, officials say half the residents there commute on bicycles.

This spring, Copenhagen opened an 11-mile “bicycle superhighway” to the western suburb of Albertslund, equipped with air pumps every mile, footrests and lights. With the superhighway, and plans for more like it, city officials hope to encourage even more bicycle ridership. Studies show it cuts health costs by keeping people more physically fit and reducing pollution.

Copenhagen officials believe the superhighway will convince more people to take two-wheel transit as a serious alternative to regular train or car travel.

In the congested Danish city, bicycles are simply more convenient than cars, many point out. That feeling is shared by a growing number of people in American cities, including New Yorkers.

In the past six years, at the urging of Mayor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City has added 255 miles of bicycle lanes onto streets previously dedicated to cars. In a recent poll by the New York Times, 66 percent of respondents said they were a good idea.

And in March, New York is scheduled to launch an ambitious Paris-like bike-sharing program, with 7,000 bikes at 420 stations.

Can a Manhattan “cycle superhighway” be far behind?

Henrik Dam Kristensen, Copenhagen’s minister for transport, speaks for many when he talks about the transformative power of peddling.

“When you have been biking for 30 minutes, you have a really good feeling about yourself,” he told the New York Times. “You really enjoy a glass of wine because you’ve earned it.”

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Just How Green is Green Enough?

Green, as it turns out, is a matter of degrees, and the costs are not necessarily proportional to the benefit.  If you’re going to embark on a green building strategy, you have to answer the question: how green do we want to be?  With legislation anxiety as the motivator, most companies would have sought the path of least resistance.  How do you check the green building box for the least cost, the least deviation from standard practice, the simplest and the quickest?  How do you become just green enough?

Through our detailed research, it became clear that “green enough” just wasn’t good enough.   And in fact is the costlier path.  The only way to do it cost-effectively, is to do it right.  Green building experts will tell you that the only way to make a building green is through a process called “integrated design.”  This process starts at the beginning with a blank slate, brings together all of the design professionals involved in the creation of a building, and teases out a design that balances costs in some areas with savings in others.  The theoretical result is a super-engineered, if somewhat unorthodox, finely tuned building machine.  Based on the beautiful LEED platinum buildings that we read about in the media, this process can yield incredible results.

However, in production development, you never start with a blank slate.  With standardization providing the basis for profitability, the puzzle pieces are already set.  Aside from the variability of individual sites, each new project is mostly just a rearrangement of those puzzle pieces.  A complete overhaul just isn’t feasible.

So, incremental change became the process by which we could implement green building practices.  And we discovered that the key to getting it right was in selecting the right increments and executing them well.  The horror stories of deal-breaking green building costs generally come from developers taking the seemingly easiest course: build as you always have but slap on some green stuff.  Instead, the first step – which offers the greatest benefit for the least cost – must be energy efficiency.

In our next “Getting Green Right” blog post, we’ll share our experiences and lessons learned with ENERGY STAR® for New Homes.

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Meet The Team: Megan Cleveland


Megan Cleveland, our Contract & Payables Administrator in the Newport Beach office, is inspired by Special Olympic athletes and enjoys in the backyard with her husband watching the dogs chase butterflies. Find out what her favorite guilty pleasure is by reading more…

Fantasy career: Special Education Teacher

Favorite ethnic cuisine: Mexican

Starbucks order: Venti Decaf 7-Pump Upside Down Carmel Macchiato

Most played song on iPod: Good Brown Gravy by Joe Diffie

A perfect day in would be: Sitting in our backyard watching the dogs chase butterflies

Best advice you ever received: Just LeDoux it!

What you like most about your work: Hands down, my boss, Andrea! She rocks!
Favorite weekend activity: Doing absolutely nothing

Worst subject in high school: Math & French (I slept through both)

What inspires you? The athletes of Special Olympics.
Reality show you’re embarrassed to admit you watch: Keeping Up with the Kardashians!

Person you’d like to have dinner with: Walt Disney

Your first job: Cashier at Target

What’s next for you: Mommy hood! I am expecting my first baby, a girl, Cheyenne Brielle, in late October/early November

A bad habit: Cracking my knuckles

Favorite possession: The pearls I picked from fresh oysters with my grandma on the Redondo Beach Pier

What book is on your nightstand now? What to Expect When You’re Expecting

A job you’d want if you weren’t doing this job: Anything involving working with special needs

Words you live by: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave at the attempt” –Special Olympics Motto

Your favorite guilty pleasure: Chocolate…I blame it entirely on my pregnancy

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Electric Car Charging Stations

If you haven’t already noticed, gas prices haven’t gone down much lately. The high price of fuel is most likely here to stay and will probably go much higher in the future as demand and the ever changing world events push speculators to literately drive the market (and drive us nuts!). It seems every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up, the price of gasoline shortly follows but the opposite is always much slower when the price of oil goes down. Strange isn’t it.

Fuel efficient vehicles have made large strides in the past decade but the growing world population, particularly in the developing countries, have offset fuel efficiency vehicles when large population countries such as China and India are purchasing vehicles while still increasing demand for fuel.

This takes us to the next best vehicle the Hybrid which uses two power sources, a combustion engine and an electric motor. There are numerous types of hybrid engines, parallel, power-split and series to name a few but it still takes some amount of fuel or fuel cell to get these engines running.

photo credit: Ecstatic Mark via photopin cc

And then there is the Electric Vehicle or EV which uses nothing but pure, clean electricity. Vehicle cost, even after government tax incentives and rebates plus battery life and replacement cost, still haven’t made this a popular choice. But as the car industry produces more of these vehicles and increasing competition to manufacturer these vehicles and their lithium-ion batteries more efficiently, we should see within the next decade a more affordable EV which will eventually take the place of the combustion engine.

So, you now have all these EV’s running around on the roads but what about the infrastructure to support the use of them. The range on these vehicles are not even close to the distances you can drive by filling up your 30 gallon tank in your V8 monster truck. 100 miles on a single charge is all you’re going to get unless you have the new Tesla Roadster which will get you 200 miles plus. Still, that 8 hour drive to grandmother’s house during the Thanksgiving holidays is going to constantly worry you and “range anxiety” is going to set in as you constantly look for a charging station.

For now, the EV is geared towards the daily commute where an average of 40 to 50 miles is the norm as we sip on our Starbucks and tune into our favorite sports talk show during the morning and afternoon freeway rat race. This has the industry responding by providing “charging networks” throughout the major U.S. metropolitan markets. States like California and Texas are now placing these networks at numerous locations and independent companies are giving EV owners monthly contract packages to pay a single monthly rate and charge at any of the charging stations available on their networks in the metro areas. So coming to a Starbucks, McDonalds’s or any Alta Property near you could be your first EV charging station.

But our options are just not limited to these open networks, we can also offer our customers our own charging station systems within a “closed network” and at the same time generate revenue by setting the price to use the station with multiple payment options to our tenants. We can also limit access to the charging station to certain users. The low cost and ease of installation, pending on the charging protocol type and built-in cellular connections can help us distinguish our apartment communities, stay competitive and gain marketing advantages by green building programs such as LEED.

As Nikola Tesla once quoted “It is probable that we shall perfect instruments for indicating the altitude of a place by means of a circuit, properly constructed and arranged, and I have thought of a number of other uses to which this principle may be put.” As Tesla was searching for new ways to use electricity, we must take what he envisioned and expand on these ideas to new and better uses for our transportation future needs.

William J. Greene III, LEED® AP BD+C
Architect/Design Manager
Wood Partners